911: The Names

I wrote this a year ago to honor those who lost their lives in both 911 tragedies.

All night I thought about the families who lost so much on September 11, 2001, the day of the most devastating domestic terrorist attack in American history.  Over 3,000 Americans lost their lives.


All week I have been debating whether or not my son, Christopher, who was born in 2001, should watch the documentaries reliving those tragic events.  We watch, but it is still hard to comprehend.  It is still hard to believe.  Christopher says he does not remember a time when we did not think about terrorists.  It is the new normal.  We know when something feels like terrorism.  We do not believe there is such a thing as “spontaneous attacks” anymore.  Those are just words that are made up.

All morning I thought about how I could come up with the right words to honor these victims, some of whom leapt to their deaths to avoid the flames that were overtaking the towers.  I also wanted to pay tribute to the four Americans who lost their lives in Benghazi one year ago today.  Their names were Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Glenn A. Doherty, and Tyrone S. Woods.  I thought about how there really are no words that are good enough in and of themselves to bring closure to the families and friends of the fallen who have lost so much.  Only words accompanied by concrete action can really be meaningful now.

I thought about the grief of the families being interviewed today, and how they are still waiting for justice–for both participants in the 911 attacks, as well as the attacks in Benghazi.  I listen to a military expert tell me that at the Pentagon they are not focused on Syria, they are not focused on terrorism, they are focused on making the cuts that are required by the sequestration.  I am not sure what to believe.

But what I do know is that when I see the families of 911 victims–both in 2001 and 2012–say that there has been no trial, no justice for the co-conspirators who have been unpunished since 2001, and the terrorists who are still at large from the attacks in Libya, I cannot help but think that this is something that should not be addressed by hollow words.  At the funerals of Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Glenn A. Doherty, and Tyrone S. Woods, President Obama said to their families: “Their sacrifice will never be forgotten.  We will bring to justice those who took them from us.”

Those families are still waiting for the apprehension of these terrorists, even though journalists have been able to interview them on numerous occasions.  Will they have to wait over a decade, like the September 11, 2001 families, for these individuals to be brought to justice?  Will President Obama keep his word to these families?

I hate that Christopher has had to witness such incomprehensible violence at such a young age.  But, maybe such images will insure that we never forget, and that we never lose gratitude for the sacrifices made by these Americans.

The truth is I can never adequately come up with the words that would be enough to honor these Americans.  But we don’t need more words.  We need our government to provide justice and punish those who who have caused so much devastation, and taken so much.  There will be distractions:  fires, tyrants, scandals, and lies.  But those distractions should not impede the justice our fellow Americans so deeply deserve.

This morning on the television, at the bottom of the screen, the names of the victims ran name after name after name, moving quickly, one after another, until all 3,000 were seen.  Above them, Susan Rice was explaining her outrage as a diplomat at the situation in Syria.  I wanted to change the order of things, put the names in large letters in the center of the screen, and make sure Ms. Rice knew every single one of those American names.  I wanted her to think about the things she said on every talk show, one after another, about some video being responsible for the attacks in Libya.  I wanted her to be taken away from the microphone, and into a room where she could see the family members of Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Glenn A. Doherty, and Tyrone S. Woods.

I wanted her to say their names.

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