Commemoration of 9/11 should never end

People use the word “anniversary” in the context of something good in one’s life, something worth celebrating.

Unfortunately, that word also is associated — or attached — too often to dates that remain a source of sorrow, loss and anger, such as Sept. 11, 2001, the date

20 years ago that suicide terrorists killed more than 3,000 innocent people at the World Trade Center, Pentagon and aboard Flight 93, which crashed in Somerset County.

Just like Dec. 7, 1941, the date Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, will live in infamy as long as there is a United States, so will that date two decades ago when Americans’ sense of security was shaken as they contemplated what those horrific terrorist actions would mean for this country, not only for the near term but for the long term as well.

The word “anniversary” remains not the right word to use regarding the annual recurrence of this date on the calendar.

Rather, “commemorate” is the better choice because it is about calling to remembrance without in any way implying happiness about that which is being remembered.

The attacks of 20 years ago will be recalled primarily in much the same way this weekend as in Septembers that have come and gone since then; that is a given.

Here in the Southern Alleghenies, the center of this year’s commemoration will again be the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville.

That national memorial is unmatched in telling the story of that doomed flight and the heroes who thwarted a potentially greater loss of life in Washington, D.C. — believed to have been the plane’s intended destination — than the tolls of death and injury at the terrorists’ other targets.

But in addition to reflecting on all of that — putting all of that in the forefront, as it should be — there is room for reflection about the fact that this region had much more than a modicum of luck on that terrible September morning.

Consider the potential loss of life in this region, on the ground, that was avoided because the plane’s passengers attempted to take control of the aircraft at precisely the right moment.

Some people might say that it almost was as if the hand of God had provided the crucial guidance that prevented that potential loss in question — the crucial guidance that resulted in no loss of life on the ground.

Had the passengers acted a few minutes earlier or later, Flight 93, with a slightly different path, could have crashed in populated places like Ligonier in Westmoreland County, Jennerstown or Boswell, in western Somerset County, or even Somerset or Berlin, a small distance to the south and west of the flight’s actual crash site.

Or, had the passengers initiated their attack seconds later, Shanksville itself could have suffered unimaginable destruction and loss of life, including to schools. Generations from now, America will remain committed to remembering Sept. 11, 2001, honoring the heroes of that day, and remembering that day’s lessons.

Along with that, they must never allow themselves to avoid pondering what could have been and how their lives, even so far removed from 2001, could be so much different.

Even many years from now, not much basis for the use of the upbeat-like word “anniversary.”


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