On 9/11 Anniversary, a Survivor Seeks a National Day of Discussion

The twin towers of the World Trade Center, shown along the skyline in New York City. Photo via Shuttershuck/RNS.

As a survivor of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, I worry about how we will remember that tragic day 50, 100, even 200 years from now.

I worry because our nation does a poor job of commemorating our most historic heroes and events. Our efforts to honor history consistently lead to one of two disappointing outcomes.

Our official holidays have become increasingly commercialized. Consider the relatively recent exploitation of Thanksgiving and Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Virtually all other anniversaries have been marginalized. Consider how little attention is paid each summer to the July 20th anniversary of the first Apollo moon landing, one of humanity’s most impressive achievements.

Not The Weapons But What They Defend

United States Marine Corps War Memorial,  Paul MacKenzie / Shutterstock.com

United States Marine Corps War Memorial, Paul MacKenzie / Shutterstock.com

I wish that we, as a people, would speak better words to those who have served in our wars. I fear that we do them, and ourselves, a disservice when we call them all heroes without letting them decide which deeds were heroic and which should be left unspoken. When we call everyone who wears a uniform a hero, we diminish heroism everywhere. 

I don’t mean we should refrain from thanking those who serve. If anything, we should thank them far more than we do, and our thanks should not just be in words. Our thanks should be sincere and long-lasting, and expressed in things like the best military hospitals we can afford, the best education we can provide, and our best efforts to ensure that their generation will be the last to endure what they have endured. Even if those ideals prove to be unattainable, we should not let that stop us from trying to attain them. As the Talmud says, “It is not your job to finish the work, but you are not free to walk away from it.” 

She Said: What's Not to Like About 'The Dark Knight Rises'?

Christian Bale as Batman in "The Dark Knight Rises." Photo via Warner Bros.

Christian Bale as Batman in "The Dark Knight Rises." Photo via Warner Bros.

No introductions necessary here, right? We all have been looking forward to this conclusion of the Christopher Nolan-directed Batman trilogy and I am happy to report that my excitement for the summer blockbuster has been satisfied.

The Dark Knight Rises takes the viewer to the eight-year anniversary of the death of Gotham's white knight, Harvey Dent. Despite knowing the dark truth about Dent's demise, Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) maintains the virtuous persona of the slain District Attorney while similarly honoring the reclusive behavior of the ailing and secretive heir, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale).

Batman, too, has been out of the spotlight in the years following Dent's death, having taken the blame for his demise in order to cover Dent's actions, but his absence is put to the test with the emergence of a new villain — the mercenary extraordinare, Bane (Tom Hardy), who brings the havoc and rage reminiscent of Wayne's former mentor, Ra's Al Ghul.

Batman is forced to re-evaluate his former relationships with Gordon, Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), and his loyal butler, Alfred (Michael Caine). He also must learn whether to trust new people on the scene or not, including the successful (and fetching) thief Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), board member Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), and Gotham Police Officer John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). The rest you'll have to see for yourself.

It's Finally Over -- and It Was Wrong

Finally, as President Obama has announced, this American war will soon be over, with most of the 44,000 American troops still in Iraq coming home in time to be with their families for Christmas.

The initial feelings that rushed over me after hearing the White House announcement were of deep relief. But then they turned to deep sadness over the terrible cost of a war that was, from the beginning, wrong; intellectually, politically, strategically and, above all, morally wrong.

The War in Iraq was fundamentally a war of choice, and it was the wrong choice.