National tragedies that occur during one's conscious lifetime always seem to gave greater impact than those that are often referred to as historical. This isn't some great revelation. Living through a tragedy, bearing witness to it, lends a deeper resonance to it in our hearts and minds. Such is the case for the September 11th terrorist attacks. Many of us, myself included, were alive and aware when they happened. It makes today's anniversary even more poignant.
December 7th, 1941 holds obvious significance as the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, bringing the United States into World War II. And yet, while I take note of and respect the observance of its anniversary, there is a sense of disconnect. It is a date in history. I have no emotional reference point for it, other than the general feelings conjured up when thinking what it must have been like to live through it, and for all that followed. On a personal level, September 11th is different.
I remember the day's events vividly. To use a cliched phrase, I remember September 11th, 2001 like it was yesterday. Nearly every moment is emblazoned in my mind, even the mundane bits before the attacks happened. All of the shock, horror, disbelief, and sadness still sits within easy access of memory. It is a day that rattled me to my core. And I was a thousand miles away from where most of the attacks took place. For those who were closer, one can only imagine the imprint it left.
September 11th was also the day that I awakened to the reality of what our first responders actually sign-up for. Sure, I'd had some general idea. They fight crime, fires, and provide first aid. Kittens-up-trees, and all that. But when things go down, Police, Fire and EMTs answer the call. We all got an education that day about what these men and women have really pledged to do. They rushed to help civilians, often with disregard to their own safety. Some paid the ultimate price. For others, they are still dealing with the lingering effects.
September 11th, 2001 is now sixteen years into the past. Sixteen years before that date was 1985 and, I have to tell you, 1985 seemed long ago to me back in 2001. But now, as mentioned earlier, 2001 -- at least this date in 2001 -- feels like it was only yesterday. It's a funny thing, time. The way our brains interpret its events often dictate how we think of its passage. If I live another forty years, September 11th, 2001 will probably continue to feel like yesterday.