On the morning of September 11, 2001, the Ashbury’s—news junkies who generally could be counted on to know what was going on in the world at any given moment—were clueless. It was a different day for us, because it was the day we went to the travel agent and paid for a vacation we were about to embark upon with our son, Anthony, and his fiancée, Sonja. We were taking a 7 day cruise to the Bahamas, out of Fort Lauderdale, leaving the first week of December.
I’m not sure why we didn’t have the car radio on as we drove, first into the city and then off to work. We left the travel agent, and I took my beloved to his job, and then I went on to mine. About ten minutes away from my destination, I turned on the car radio for the first time that morning and fell, with the rest of you, into a most terrible day.
That wasn’t the first most terrible day I’d lived through; I still recall the day President Kennedy was assassinated. But this time, I was an adult, with an adult’s understanding and an adult’s tendency to worry about what might happen next.
Twenty-six Canadians died alongside so many more Americans on that most terrible day. Though we do not carry the depth of the wound to our national soul as our neighbors to the south do because of this attack, we have mourned. We have stood with you, because we are good neighbors. We opened our homes to you when all air traffic over our continent was grounded, and some of you were stranded. Although sometimes it is forgotten by both of us, the truth is, we have your backs to the best of our abilities, just as we know you have ours.
That day fifteen years ago fundamentally changed us all—individuals and society alike. Some of those changes were positive, but not all of them were. The one change I regret is the degree to which we, as a society—a North American society—have allowed fear to enter into our lives and control us.
Fear has encouraged us to surrender some of our freedoms, payed for in blood and bone and sinew by our ancestors. Fear has made us regard those not like us not only as being different, but as a being a possible threat to the common good. Fear has lain within the dark recesses of our psyches and in some cases, sadly, grown into gross hatred.
The legacy of this most terrible day must never be left to languish in the annals of history. We must never forget those who died in New York, office workers trying to flee downstairs and rescuers racing upstairs toward peril. We must never forget those who died in Arlington, airline passengers and soldiers alike. We must never forget those brave airplane passengers who, upon discovering events of just moments before, rose up and challenged murderers and died heroes’ deaths in fields of Shanksville.
Plain and simple, above all possible political rhetoric, we must never forget.