For anyone in the fire and emergency services, active or retired, who was serving anywhere in the United States (and across the globe, for that matter) on Sept. 11, 2001, the phrase "never forget" has a clear and unambiguous meaning.
We know what it means; we know who it's about; and we also know that none of us are in any danger of forgetting, no matter how many years pass between us and that tragic day in New York City, Arlington, Va., and Shanksville, Pa.
It occurred to me yesterday, however, not for the first time but perhaps for the strongest (yet), that there's an entire generation of Americans who weren't even born on 9/11. As I stood before a group of youth football players between 8 and 12 years old, from two localities that responded to the Pentagon that terrible day, it struck me that telling them to "never forget" didn't really make sense.
These children, now almost young adults, just like my own kids, didn't experience 9/11 in the fire service or elsewhere. They don't know what it felt like for our country to be attacked on our own soil. They don't know what it felt like to see the Twin Towers collapse, to watch our nation's fortress burn, or to hear the phone calls from the brave souls who perished aboard Flight 93.
But yet, there they stood. With their hands on their hearts, singing (mostly) our national anthem, and then quietly (quieter than a group of young football players should be) honoring the memory of our fallen heroes, along with the sacrifices of those still on-duty, at home and overseas.
Hallowed memories for some, hallowed ground for all, and our shared duty to ensure nobody ever forgets.
About the author
With more than two decades in the field, Chief Adam K. Thiel — FireRescue1's editorial advisor — is an active fire chief in the National Capital Region and a former state fire director for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Chief Thiel's operational experience includes serving with distinction in four states as a chief officer, incident commander, company officer, hazardous materials team leader, paramedic, technical rescuer, structural/wildland firefighter and rescue diver. He also directly participated in response and recovery efforts for several major disasters including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Tropical Storm Gaston and Hurricane Isabel.
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