It’s become a common refrain around this time of year: I remember where I was when the towers fell…
In all fairness, it’s hard to forget. When the first plane hit the towers in 2001, there was disbelief, sorrow, and no small amount of fear. When the second plane hit the towers, that fear became more palpable, more urgent. By the time Flight 77 careened into the side of the Pentagon, there was a bubbling sense of panic. I was a freshman in high school, and I’d never seen such abject terror on the faces of adults as I did on that day. Then Flight 93 went down in Pittsburgh, and even in the midst of indescribable uncertainty, one thing was clear: things would never be the same again.
The country came together to mourn. Stories of loved ones lost in the wreckage permeated every moment of daily life. Pictures of victims jumping from the collapsing towers haunted our dreams. The bravery of fallen police officers and firefighters who had rushed to the aid of victims compounded the grief that much more.
And so, every year on September 11th, we pledge we won’t forget. We’ll never forget those who died in the attacks. We’ll never forget those who died trying to rescue them. But there’s another element to all of this that we should never forget — an ugliness borne of the rubble and blood — that has taken far more lives over the past 14 years than the cumulative American victim count in the unspeakable violence: the innocent targets of a pungent Islamophobia.