We promised to never forget. Remember?
Even before COVID-19, though — which makes it difficult and even foolhardy and risky to attend public memorial events — most of us had long stopped commemorating or even thinking much about the anniversary of Sept. 11. We were already finding it easy to just let the date slide by, to care a little less with each passing year the horrible gut punch delivered 19 years ago when terrorists struck in New York City, at the Pentagon, and inside a passenger plane that crashed into a field in rural Pennsylvania.
No events were even held in Duluth last year or in 2017.
Despite the pandemic, at least two commemorations are on the docket today in Duluth.
The first is closed to the public but will be live-streamed on the Duluth Fire Department’s Facebook page. At 8:15 this morning, Duluth firefighters will complete a 9/11 memorial stair climb at AMSOIL Arena. We can participate virtually while our firefighters pay tribute to firefighters in New York City, 343 of whom perished on Sept. 11, 2001, by climbing the equivalent of the World Trade Center’s 110 stories. Proceeds from the climb will go to the IAFF Fallen Firefighters Memorial Fund.
“With each flight of stairs that we climb, we will pick up a badge that has the name and picture of one of the 343 firefighters who lost their lives as a way to carry them with us as we continue our service,” Duluth firefighter and event organizer Andrew Olsen said in an exclusive statement to the News Tribune Opinion page. “This is a very humbling event where we honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect others, and (we) think about their families.”
At 6 p.m., a thank-you barbecue in honor of local first responders is planned in memory of the brave firefighters, police officers, and others who, 19 years ago today, ran toward and into the burning Twin Towers to save those who were running out toward safety. The event is to be held in the parking lot of the West Duluth American Legion Post 71, 5814 Grand Ave. Organizers from Veterans United for Freedom urge bringing your own chair and also a flag, sign, or banner of support for our local heroes.
While organizers didn’t say so, anyone attending should also wear a mask, keep a healthy and safe distance from each other, and thoroughly wash after returning home. Masks are required inside the Legion hall.
Due to the pandemic, this year’s 9/11 anniversary can’t be like those first ones. They were so big they were held at spacious Bayfront Festival Park. We came in droves then, pushing strollers, waving flags, remembering.
This year, even if not together, we can still remember in droves. And pay tribute and honor in our own private ways. We can recall the words of former New York Gov. George Pataki, written for CNN on the five-year anniversary: “The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, reshaped the face of the nation and the course of history. … Our lives and the lives of those to come... changed forever. … The date, Sept. 11, will forever evoke recollections of unimaginable tragedy, of lives callously lost and brutally cut short, and of unspeakable horror and sorrow in the hearts and minds of all of us. We must never forget the depths of inhumanity to which terrorist fanatics are willing to sink in the name of their depraved cause as they seek to destroy the very principles of freedom and democracy on which this great nation was founded. …
“Remembering that day is not a choice but our solemn obligation ," Pataki wrote. “Always remember that we were attacked not for what we do wrong but for what we do right.”
All the more reason to at least pause today — and to remember to never forget.