Remembering 9/11 with reflection, respect

By Ludy Astraquillo Ongkeko, Ph.D.

Once again, the threshold of 9/11 is on us.

That date is such a grim reminder of what took place on September 11, a dozen years ago. More than 3,000 lives were lost that day. That date changed the world forever.

Terrorism was defined in the cruelest and the most inhumane way when it came to what attained worldwide notoriety as ‘9/11.’

How air travel since then has been direly affected is an everyday reminder: when passengers traveling by air are required by law to follow whatever measures must be observed join the daily scenes at airports.

On many an occasion, this writer is not the only one who hears how ‘inconvenient’ it is to fly; remembering the many inconveniences whose origins go back to that date when terrorism didn’t just rock New York City, but the rest of the world. After-shocks tell volumes where blackened-out areas still stand out.

Inevitably, the subject of 9/11 arises when friends and kin talk about what happened, told and retold to them by scenes on TV, not only on that day but each time air carriers accompanied the news.

Just to recall the scenes, how commercial airlines were flown into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon seemed far from real; the viewer would not err when she/he would think what she saw was on reel, a story on science. But those spectra did happen. They were real. Not reel.

The attack on the Pentagon caused the death of 184 people. Forty were killed on United Air Lines (UAL) Flight 93 in Pennsylvania when determined and dauntless passengers were able to prevent another building in Washington to be struck by their own plane piloted by terrorist hijackers.

Had those passengers failed in their plan of attack on the cockpit where terrorists had taken over flight control, who knows whether or not the Capitol or even the White House could have been spared.

It was still breakfast on the West Coast then. The phone rang incessantly. It was Jason, our grandson, a plebe at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland (class 2005) who was on the line. He assured us “all was well,” and not to worry about him. That was the ‘alert’ he gave. Then, he was off the line in just moments. No time for queries nor comments came from us, his family.

Later, we put two and two together. Their grounds, close to the Pentagon were identified by news reports as ‘that close’ to the terrorists’ target when that UAL flight came down.

One question that ensued that day and has morphed into more queries many a time thereafter: “Where were you when 9/11 took place?” That query almost parallels one such question: “Where were you when President Kennedy was assassinated?”

What everyone was doing then doesn’t necessitate slow recollection. Numbers among us can recall what was going on in our lives when 9/11/2001 descended in untold destruction, not only in terms of lives and property, but the inner spirit as well.

A new definition of terrorism emerged.

Panic-stricken scenes ensued. There were pathetically narrated losses seen and heard. Of lives. Of morale. Of sole wage earners. Of budding careerists in their respective fields. Of brave men and women. Of public servants. Of medical teams rushing to save lives. Of how 9/11 became a tragedy of immeasurable proportions. Of nameless and unidentified heroes. Of attempts to scamper to safety from sky-high edifices whose facilities ceased working. Indeed, so many scenes unfolded that did appear over a long period of time on tape.

Remembering 9/11/2011 is today’s reality.

Oftentimes, the term ‘remembering,’ takes on an affectionate connotation.

Returning to ‘9/11,’ is replete in sadness as it comes to the fore. Yes, it is ‘remembering,’ to a boundless extent. Threats of terrorism cannot be shunted aside.

If only to recall the lessons learned, 9/11/2011 is one date to be together in quiet. Not in any form of celebration. Just respect. Just a few moments of remembrance meant to defer to those who unselfishly gave up their lives so more lives could be spared.

red line

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