“Lest we forget” is a phrase often used in Remembrance Day services in English-speaking countries, but it also applies to other dates. September 11, 2001 is one such day the world remembers. Its events were four coordinated terrorist attacks by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda against the United States. It is believed that Osama bin Laden, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and Mohammed Atef plotted them after a 1999 meeting and chose the date to match 911, the phone number used for U.S. emergencies.
Regarding that and other stand-out events, most of us know exactly where we were and what we were doing when we heard the news. On 9/11, I taught college evenings but worked days in a Minneapolis hospital. That morning, I stepped into the basement employee elevator and heard co-workers discussing a plane that had crashed into the World Trade Center. After reaching my floor, I told my work supervisor, but he had his radio on and told me a second plane had struck the Twin Towers and brought the structure down with the greatest loss of American lives since Pearl Harbor. They were not accidental attacks. Strangers encouraged one another. Churches filled.
For Americans and the world, November 22, 1963, was another unforgettable day day when at 12:30 p.m. Texas time, U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I had begun undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto, Canada and was amazed at how many students knew I was American and went out of their way to express their condolences. I was more surprised at how many Canadian homes and offices managed to display U.S. flags in sympathy. On one of the saddest days in American life, my personal take-away remains gift-wrapped by so many warm expressions of support that I will never forget. Major events stick in our minds and hearts to pinpoint such moments forever and make us lay hold again of the the things that strengthen us most.
What days in history live in your mind? Where were you and what were you doing? Recalling them makes time fall away as if we are there again with the events and players crystal clear. Hopefully, such specifics make the memories live to not be repeated—“Lest we forget”.