"Where were you twenty years ago," began my pastor, "on the morning of 9/11? If you can remember, please stand." Pews squeaked and pages rustled as hundreds stood -- a vast majority. The college students, noticeable because seated together in groups, did not stand. They hadn't been born yet, or were at least too young to remember. Forgetting is easy; all it takes is the inertia of time. Remembering is harder.
To be sure, Americans have tried hard to remember 9/11. We constructed memorials with steel beams from the Twin Towers. We proactively countered terrorism by occupying hotbeds of foment across the globe. We rebuilt Ground Zero in New York City. Many of us still post annual recollections of how it affected us. "Never forget," we say.
Then we (or at least those wielding power in America) abruptly forgot. Overnight, they abandoned our overseas operations, sabotaging allies that we painstakingly built up with promises of support and trillions of dollars. Even the memorials we built on our foreign bases were abandoned. "Happy Ramadan, radical terrorists, we leave you as a parting gift this beam from a building you destroyed in a sensational act of terrorism."
Did we revise our strategic plan? Did we stop caring? Or did we just stop actively remembering?
While the Biden administration worked overtime to exacerbate the disaster in Afghanistan, Fairfax County School Board Member Abrar Omeish opposed a call for silence for 9/11 because it ignored "state-sponsored traumas" against Muslims. The Virginia Department of Education followed suit, warning that "school and classroom 9/11 commemorations are sites for increased anti-Muslim racism," giving as examples of "harmful teaching" such things as: "amplifying the extremists and extremist acts of 9/11" (is that even possible?) and "demanding the condemnation of 9/11" (heaven forbid that schools teach children to condemn moral evil!). Not actively remembering scarcely turns into such blatant denial; usually we just forget.
Granted, holding all Muslims accountable for the atrocities of 9/11 is as unjust and untrue as holding all Christians accountable for the Atlanta spa shooter. But the guidance seems calculated to help future generations forget 9/11. Every other member of the notoriously left-wing Fairfax County School Board rejected Omeish's alternative resolution, which emphasized anti-Muslim discrimination (ten paragraphs) over America's 3,000 dead (one paragraph).
Eventually 9/11 (and America!) will be forgotten. "There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of later things yet to be among those who come after" (Ecclesiastes 1:11). But some things are worth remembering while we can. Remembering the events of 9/11 help us to protect our country from similar acts of terror and warns us of the human heart's great capacity for evil.
Events like 9/11 help remind us of other things that are more important to remember. As Americans, we should remember the careful deliberation that informed the genius of our limited Constitution, the litany of racial abuses that forced us to become a more just nation, and those who courageously died to secure freedom.
God, who created us, has always known our tendency to forget. That's why he gave Passover to remind Israel of their deliverance of Egypt (Exodus 13:3). That's why he gave the Lord's Supper to remind Christians of Jesus' sacrificial death (Luke 22:19). That's why the entire book of Deuteronomy was written, to remind those entering the Promised Land of what God had done and why their parents all died in the wilderness -- and to instruct them to teach their children. That's why he gave pastors to his church (2 Timothy 2:8-14).
Amid a world of distractions, let's not forget to remember.