Letter To The Editor
Have We Forgotten
It was just before seven o’clock in the morning. I was getting ready for school in my second week of my senior year. I was gathering my books and my papers and placing them into my backpack when my father came bursting through the front door. This took me by surprise, as my father never came home that early. He rushed through the front door and into the family room. I heard the TV go on. Curious, I went out to see what all the fuss was about. As I came around the corner, I looked at the TV and saw an airplane smash into the South Tower. My father and I stood speechless. I asked if it was real, and my father assured me that it was. After a few moments standing in silence, my dad told me to get to school.
I jumped in my car and headed to school. When I entered the classroom, there was a TV on, and everyone was sitting, watching the news. During the time it took me to get to school, the Pentagon had been struck. I quietly sat down and watched the news with my classmates. As we watched, the South Tower collapsed. Twenty minutes later, the North Tower collapsed. All I remember is seeing the dust, smoke, debris, and hellish screams blaring through the TV. I remember watching people running for their lives in absolute horror. I remember asking myself why this was happening. I remember sitting in absolute shock watching it all unfold.
September 11th will mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11. I have to be honest, it was 12 years after 9/11 that everything that transpired on that fateful day became real to me. In 2013, I became a member of the Mountain Home Fire Department. It was during my time as a firefighter that I learned what 9/11 really meant. I learned about brotherhood and what 343 stood for. I learned that men and women in emergency services have a bond like no other. I learned what bravery, courage, and dedication looked like. I learned what the human spirit was truly capable of.
Along with being a firefighter, I was also a teacher. That meant I got the opportunity to explore, research, and teach students about 9/11. After doing the research and learning more and more about 9/11, I started gaining a special kind of respect for all those involved on that horrific day. Nearly 3,000 people lost their lives in a matter of 14 hours. Without any hesitation, firefighters and police officers rushed into buildings and started climbing over 100 stories to save complete strangers from fire and entrapment; not knowing that those buildings would soon come crashing down upon them. Complete strangers were helping other strangers escape, find safety, or just sitting, holding each other and crying. September 11th was horrific in nature, but it showed a side of humanity that was forgotten, and I believe has become forgotten again.
Twenty years later, we are at each other’s throats. We are divided farther apart than we have ever been. You can blame it on whatever you want; politics, media, whathaveyou, but the truth is, we all have a choice. On September 11th, 2001, there was no black or white, male or female, Christian or Atheist, there was humanity plain and simple. In a time of tragedy and loss, nothing mattered except our fellow neighbor. It seems that we have forgotten what it means to love our neighbor. We have lost sight of what it means to support, help, and sacrifice for each other. If we are not careful, we will destroy each other.
We post every year, “We Will Never Forget!”, but I fear we already have. We have forgotten what it means to look out for each other. We have forgotten how to help selflessly. We have forgotten how to sacrifice ourselves for those around us. We have forgotten that we are all equal and no one is better than another. We have forgotten that our neighbors are not our enemies. We have forgotten how to look past our differences. We have forgotten how to love.
On the 20th anniversary of 9/11, I pray that we start to remember what it means to be unified, what it means to be together, what it means to love our neighbors, and most importantly, what it means to live selflessly. I ask that you break down your wall of pride and remember the power of humility. I ask that you remove your selfishness and become selfless. I ask that you stop seeing your neighbor as an enemy, but rather a brother, sister, and friend. Let us never forget that we are all in this together, and when it comes time to run into a “burning building” for our neighbors, we would do it without a second thought in hopes to save the lives inside.
As always, stay humble and serve well!
Kristopher Wallaert, EdD