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Lessons of Sept. 11 need to be remembered

By Darrell Huckaby

As I drove to school one day this week listening to one of the area's country stations, as is my custom, the voice of Newnan native Alan Jackson began to come through my speakers.

He was singing his post-9/11 ballad "Do You Remember?" I suspect we'll be hearing that song a lot over the next couple of days as we approach the five-year anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the fabric of our lives.

As I listened to the words of Jackson's song, I couldn't help but conclude that he was asking a pretty fair question - a fair enough question, in fact, that I think I will ask it of you.

Do you remember?

Not just the events. Of course we all remember, in the periphery of our minds, what happened. But do you really remember?

Sept. 11, so far, has been the defining moment for an entire generation. It's the "I know exactly where I was and who I was with when I heard" moment for practically everybody under 50, just like Pearl Harbor was for my parents' generation and that awful day in Dallas was for mine.

But Jackson wasn't talking about where we were and who we were with, was he? He was talking more about what we saw and how we felt. He was particularly talking about how we felt.

A whole kaleidoscope of emotions poured over most of us as we watched the footage of that first plane flying into the first tower. Shock. Disbelief. Anger. Fear. All of the above.

And then the second plane. And then the Pentagon. And then the fourth plane crashing to the ground in Pennsylvania.

For a couple of weeks we saw those images quite frequently on television, but I can't remember the last time I saw that footage. I suppose we'll see it over the weekend and I'm sure we will see it on every network on Monday.

We should see it - but not just on Monday. We should see it every day, because a whole lot of us need to be reminded that we were all attacked by a "faceless coward" that day, and we need to understand that even though the people killed that day were in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, it could have just as easily happened in Atlanta, Lilburn, Conyers and Covington - or any other part of this great nation.

We desperately need to remember that our enemies are out there and they are not satisfied with 3,000 deaths or 10,000 deaths or 100,000 deaths. They would like to end millions of innocent lives and totally destroy our ideals and our way of life.

This isn't demagogic ideology, y'all - this is a solid gold fact.

The Osama bin Ladens and other Muslim extremists of the world have sworn to bring death and destruction to all infidels, and they won't stop until they do or until we stop them.

Do you remember the days after Sept. 11? Do you remember the heartbreaking stories of the heroic police officers and firefighters who rushed into the doomed buildings as others were desperately rushing out? Do you remember marveling at the courage and ingenuity of the passengers aboard United Flight 93 as their story came to light?

Do you remember the numbness we felt as a nation? Do you remember how strange it felt to look up in the sky for a whole week and not see a single airplane overhead?

Do you remember the memorial service in the National Cathedral, when five of the 42 men who have served as this nation's commander in chief sat shoulder to shoulder and grieved for the fallen? Do you remember how the rest of us went to church seeking comfort and consolation? Do you remember how we put partisan politics aside and - for a few weeks, at least - truly did seem to become one nation under God?

Do you remember how the flags came out of storage and adorned mailboxes and front porches? Do you remember the yellow ribbons we wore for the fallen? Do you remember that, for a few weeks, at least, there were no Democrats and no Republicans - there weren't even Bulldogs or Yellow Jackets - but how, for a little while at least, there were only Americans?

That was then, of course, and this is now, and over the past five years we have, once again, grown apart and grown complacent and failed to learn the lessons of history. We get to the airport a little earlier now and grumble about the long lines at security and we open up our bags when we walk into concerts and ballgames and, once in a great while - usually around Memorial Day or the Fourth of July - we might remember to ask God's protection of our service members who are in harm's way.

But now we are observing another anniversary. Now we are given another chance to remember Sept. 11, 2001. We'd better take advantage of the opportunity, because those who do not remember history really are doomed to repeat it.

Do you remember?

Darrell Huckaby is an author and teacher in Rockdale County. E-mail him at dhuck08@bellsouth.net.

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