Having grown up not far from where the 9/11 attacks took place and knowing a number of the people whose lives were forever changed that day, I’ve generally become cynical of the anniversaries commemorating that fateful day, solemn or otherwise. There’s a myth almost as old as the tragedy itself that suddenly all Americans were united, and while there are stories of extraordinary courage from that day – acts of either first responders or neighbors, there are also countless stories of bigotry and xenophobia towards anyone who appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent living in America in the days that followed 9/11. There is also the fact that while so many Americans 20 years ago were enraged over the deaths of over 3,000 people in a terrorist attack, many more than that have died in the COVID pandemic that still rages on, with not only a number of Americans growing numb to it, but a sizable portion of the country not even taking the basic steps to prevent the unnecessary deaths from piling up.
Although much of the media spotlight was on a speech given by former President Bush in Shanksville, Pennsylvania on Saturday, many overlooked remarks made at the same event by Vice President Kamala Harris who related the story of the 40 passengers of Flight 93 who stormed the cockpit. She acknowledged the plight faced by many Sikh and Muslim Americans in the days that followed the tragedy, which hasn’t often been specifically addressed by politicians but what was so significant about her speech the emphasis on how those 40 passengers overcame their differences to avert what would have been an even worse catastrophe.
It’s a far cry from the GOP who after two decades of advising us to “Never forget” are urging us to forget the events of just eight months ago – even as they continue to kill Americans for their own political advantage. When it comes to November and honoring the courage of those lost in the attacks, we should choose the leaders who seek to unite us rather than who would sow division, something the GOP has unfortunately chosen to do.
James Sullivan is the assistant editor of Brain World Magazine and an advocate of science-based policy making