Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Never Forget

In the days before TigerBlog's senior year of college, his friend and soon-to-be roommate Charlie volunteered him to help coordinate during student move-in period.

There were two reasons for this. First, TB and Charlie got to move into their own room a few days early, thereby avoiding the crush when everyone showed up. Given that TB and Charlie were living on the 24th floor of a 24-story dorm, that was a huge advantage.

Second, there was the opportunity to meet women during move-in.

As it turned out, TB got to avoid the rush at the elevators and that was about it.

This past weekend was move-in at Princeton, where classes begin later this week.

Actually, Princeton's academic calendar begins later than most, and TB has seen the effect of taking their first-borns off to college on some of his own friends in recent weeks. It appears to be a tad, uh, emotional, for both mothers and fathers.

TB has thought back to his own collegiate move-in experiences recently, with the start of another school year.

He thought back to the days of the 1980s, to the world that existed when he was a student and in the years that followed.

And how any semblance of that world vanished 11 years ago today.

The morning of Sept. 11, 2001, was very much like this morning or yesterday morning, at least in terms of the weather. It was crystal-clear that morning, the kind of late-summer morning where the sky is at its absolute bluest and the world appears to be at its calmest.

TigerBlog was at the preschool across the street from the Jadwin parking lot, taking TigerBlog Jr. into the building, when he first heard that a plane had hit the World Trade Center.

If TB lives to be a million years old, he'll never forget the feeling he had after walking out of that building, looking up to the perfect blue sky and realizing that there was no way that a plane could accidentally have crashed into the tower.

At that point, TB was confused, and expecting the worst.

By the time he reached Jadwin, the worst got even worse.

In almost no time, four planes had been hijacked, three of them crashing into high profile targets at the World Trade Center and Pentagon and a fourth headed to either the White House or Capitol before the passengers took over, only to crash into a Pennsylvania field.

In all, more than 3,000 people were dead - and the world was changed. Forever.

TBJ was too young to have any idea what was going on.

The students who just moved into Princeton were for the most part between 7 and 11 years old on 9/11, old enough to remember and not really old enough to remember what the pre-9/11 world was like.

Whatever your politics, any American owes a huge debt to the administrations of President Bush and President Obama - and to the American military and intelligence communities - that have prevented a repeat of such a large-scale attack in this country in the years since.

The result, TB suspects, is a lowered sense of the urgency of the situation, a fading over time of just exactly what could happen in this country if those who are charged with protecting it fail.

A few days ago, TigerBlog began to watch Season 1 of "Homeland," the Showtime series about an intelligence agent and her never-ending quest to prevent a terrorist attack. After never even heard of the show less than a week ago, TB has now watched all 12 episodes of Season 1, and it's vaulted near the top of the list of any show he's ever seen.

As Carrie and her colleagues go about their business, she is surrounded by a world going about its business, which is the way it's supposed to be in this country. It's just that this can't be at the expense of forgetting what happened 11 years ago.

There are so many people whom TB knows or has met - many of them former Princeton athletes - who were in the middle of Ground Zero at it all was happening.

A former Princeton men's lacrosse player and member of the 1992 NCAA championship team, John Schroeder, was killed that day.

It was a very real, very frightening day, and the passing of time shouldn't dim that or soften that or make anyone forget the very real threat that apparently will always exist.

TB remembers looking up at the sky that night, 11 years ago, and seeing nothing but darkness and stars, nothing moving, no airplanes flying after they'd all been grounded.

Again, he remembers clearly the moment, knowing that the world had been changed forever. He was positive that the next attack was coming, maybe even as he was standing there.

Now 11 years have gone by, and nothing close to that has been repeated in this country. The cost has of protecting America has been huge, and many have sacrificed their very lives to make it so.

With every year that passes, the reality of what happened that day gets a little further in the rearview mirror.

It's important that it not fade completely. Ever.

As TB's people say about the Holocaust - never forget.

Too many people are owed that for what they did to keep you safe.

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