Nancy Gregory, hugs her sons Carl, left, and Gregory as they pay their respects to her husband firefighter Ken Kumpel at the National 9/11 Memorial during the tenth anniversary ceremonies of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center site, September 11, 2011 in New York City.
As more time passes since September 11, 2001, the United States has shown an increasing amount of perspectives for the significant date. Initially, and for several years afterward, there was an overwhelming sense of shock followed by collective grief.
But, 11 years later, it’s fairly safe to say that most have moved beyond such intense feelings.
Even the media reflects this in some ways, as last year, for the tenth anniversary, there was wall-to-wall coverage from New York City on many major and minor outlets. This year, however, it seems to be more of a simple commemoration of the date’s events.
The economic crisis and its importance in this year’s election has probably overshadowed the threat of terrorism for most Americans. Maybe geography has something to do with it too; for those physically distant from the attacks, it was easier not to fixate on the tragedy and its after effects, allowing them to move on.
But what about the people who still proudly sport “Never Forget” paraphernalia? Is it a simple personality type to maintain such reverence? What about family members of those in the military who have served either in Iraq or Afghanistan? Are they more likely to be intensely proud of the war on terror, or do they feel it’s time for their fighting men and women come home?
FROM THE PHONES: How callers reflect on the anniversary of 9/11
Diane Hare of Redondo Beach was a burn nurse for a county hospital in upstate New York. She called in and emotionally recounted her experience being on call that day for her first emergency response shift:
"I went through emotions of being so scared by what I was seeing. I saw the towers fall on television," she described, holding back tears. "I pulled it together expecting patients, and we didn't get any. I was at the Clark Burn Center upstate, biggest burn center in the state. We thought we would get someone, and we found out there wasn't anybody left."
Her commemoration ritual has remained the same; she takes the day off each year to remember what it's like to be a health care provider and what it takes to get through those situations. She still works as a nurse to this day.
Scott called from East L.A. to say that his sentiments have changed over time. As a medical student in Philadelphia with many friends in New York, he said he took it personally when seeing the destruction and how it affected his friends.
"I can say for certain that 9/11 of 2011 was the worst day of my life," he began. "There was really a ground swell of anger that translated into essentially a podium of war; I wanted to see payback as much as everybody else. With time, 9/11 has come to represent maybe a sense of betrayal as well, a sense that I was misled in the context of my anger and my grief – I was misled by my own government to support wars that crushed us in ways beyond the effects of 9/11."
Sylvia in Eagle Rock looks back on the tragedy as the day when childhood ended for her. "I was 14; it was my first week of high school," she said. "That was kind of the first time I could conceptualize evil was more than a biblical context. ... I was seeing it for the first time, and that's something you can't take back – the sense of powerlessness that day."
Lee, calling from Pacific Palisades, said she was standing on the street on the way to the gym when she saw the second plane hit. She added that on this day, she thinks about how unpredictable life can be.
"A car came by with the bullhorn and said, 'The pentagon's been hit, the pentagon's been hit.' I think people underestimated how terrifying it was to feel that maybe WWIII was breaking out and bombs were going to fall on our heads. I didn't know where I should go ... Everyone on the street was just at a lost," she remembered. "I think it's very important to remember how fragile we are, how vulnerable we are, and how in an instant, your life can change."