William Jordan, president of the Association of Americans Resident Overseas, remembers what happened on this day in 2001 in the U.S...
Twenty years ago, on a beautiful late summer morning on the East Coast of the U.S., two planes struck the towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, and another slammed into the Pentagon across the Potomac from the nation’s capital. A fourth crashed near Shanksville, PA, after passengers realized what had happened in New York and the Washington area and decided to sacrifice themselves rather than let their aircraft become the fourth missile in a deliberate attack on the United States, its people, and what they represented.
Thousands died and were wounded instantly. Others have died in the 20 years since, from injuries or conditions caused by what happened on September 11, 2001. Heroes and victims were many, and often the same.
Twenty years ago, America changed. Twenty years ago, the world changed.
Twenty years ago, a clear line demarcated life before and after 8:46:40am EDT that fateful day. Twenty years ago, it was impossible to imagine the world 20 years later.
How one marks September 11 – or “9/11,” as most Americans refer to that date – is highly personal. To call the day an “anniversary” of those tragic events may be accurate, but it also seems strange to use a word that usually denotes the celebration of a joyous annual commemoration.
What is certain, however, is that 9/11 is a moment for remembrance and reflection: Remembrance of what happened and of those who were directly and indirectly affected, and reflection on what it meant and still means.
This is certainly a day anyone alive and aware on 9/11 remembers in almost granular detail.
For my generation, it was comparable to President Kennedy’s assassination. My parents and people of their generation recall 9/11 with the same clarity they remembered not only the day JFK was killed, but the attack on Pearl Harbor.
In all these cases, there is the shared sense of something lost and forever changed, as well as the feeling that from one instant to the next, one crossed an invisible line that one could never recross.
I wish all AARO members and all American overseas well on this solemn day, and express my heartfelt condolences, sympathy, and solidarity to those touched by what happened 20 years ago.
I also express the hope that, as Americans, we can all reconnect with the shared sentiment 9/11 generated in the days that followed, that, despite the shock of the attack and amid its tears, America would find the strength to absorb the blow, bury the dead, heal the wounded, and endure.
Finally, I remind everyone that since 2011, this day has been known as Patriot Day, to encourage us all to think about what America is, and how we can play our part to, as the preamble to the Constitution says, “form a more perfect union.”
God bless America and God bless all of you,
William Jordan is president of the Paris-based Association of Americans Resident Overseas. AARO was founded in 1973 by Phyllis Michaux and a group of other Americans who were concerned about the way they thought – even then – that the U.S. government was neglecting those of its citizens who lived abroad.
Today AARO is an international, non-profit, non-partisan, volunteer-run association with members in 46 countries. It researches issues that significantly affect the lives of overseas Americans and endeavors to keep its members informed of those issues, while also lobbying on behalf of expatriate causes, such as taxation, citizenship issues, Social Security and Medicare.
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