Every September 11, I remember the quiet scary days around that date in 2001. I remember sitting in my office and hearing a street musician outside my window playing the the National Anthem on his saxophone and touching my soul. I remember that, for a brief moment, people around the world said “Je suis Americain(e)” in many languages.
But if you want to talk memories — things I can’t forget — this brings back how quickly we squandered that good will on an unrelated war that led to far greater loss of life. And, as I heard someone point out on the first or second anniversary of 9/11/2001, many of the people instructing us to Never Forget The Twin Towers would spend the other 364 days of the year deriding the coastal elites and striving immigrants who actually lost their lives in those buildings.
But more recently, the instruction to Never Forget strikes a sour note with me — largely because it brings into stark relief the things that many Never Forgetters are comfortable forgetting. So herewith a (likely still incomplete) list, in approximate chronological order, of things I will Never Forget:
- My Jewish ancestors who died in the Inquisition.
- Native Americans who died following the arrival of my various ancestors to this land.
- Enslaved African-Americans who died crossing the Atlantic or due to the lethal practices of our system of enslavement.
- Workers who died in the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, the Ludlow Massacre and others.
- African-Americans who were lynched during Jim Crow and after.
- American soldiers who died fighting Nazis and fascists.
- Jews killed by Nazis and fascists.
- Japanese killed by atomic bombs.
- Americans killed in the (ongoing) struggle for civil rights.
- Americans killed on 9/11/2001.
- Millions of Iraqis who died after we decided to declare war on a country that did not launch the 9/11 attacks and did not have WMDs.
- Matthew Shepard and the countless LGBTQ individuals killed for who they are.
- Marvin Booker, Philando Castile, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Ethan Saylor, Daniel Harris, Shawn Vigil, Jessica Hernandez, Michael Marshall, and other people of color and people with disabilities who have died at the hands of law enforcement.
- The children who died at Sandy Hook, and other victims of mass shootings and gun violence.