When Leaders Fail, It’s Up to Us to Remember 9/11

POLITICS & POLICY
An American flag flies near the base of the destroyed World Trade Center in New York City, September 11, 2001. (Peter Morgan/Reuters)
The events of that day must be remembered, not whitewashed or sanitized for those who lack contemporary memories of them.

We swore we would never forget.

Twenty years ago this week, we watched planes fly into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. We gasped as we saw people jump to their deaths from high-rise windows in desperation. We shed tears as we saw a plane smoldering in a field in Pennsylvania.

As a nation, we swore to punish those who attacked our country — and any who harbored, aided, or abetted them.

The facts are simple: Al-Qaeda terrorists were the perpetrators of 9/11. The Taliban harbored them, and al-Qaeda pledged their allegiance to the Taliban. They fought alongside each other in training efforts against the West.

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Yet President Biden defiantly announced his intent to abandon American efforts in Afghanistan, with a total withdrawal of troops by the 20th anniversary of September 11. How’s that for symbolism? America in retreat, so our enemies could take over.

Following 9/11, we had no option but to stop Islamic terrorism at its source. Despite the complaints of the “end the forever wars” crowd, our mission in Afghanistan had a distinct purpose — we fought the Taliban there so future generations would not have to face another 9/11.

And while there have been terrorist attacks on our soil since then, we’ve seen nothing on the same scale in the past 20 years. That fact would likely come as a surprise to many of those old enough to remember 9/11. In the immediate aftermath of the attacks that day, future, similar attacks seemed imminent.

But the number of people who lack contemporary memories of 9/11 grows every year.

Here’s a mind-blowing fact: Freshmen and sophomores currently in college were not even alive on 9/11/01. Ensuring they never forget the lives lost that day is much harder, as they learn about the attacks from a secondhand perspective — books, video clips, storytelling from their parents. Most of them have no personal attachment to that day.

We even see schools trying to sanitize what happened. “It’s not about memorializing how many lives were lost,” said a presenter at a Virginia Department of Education teacher training. According to her, revisiting these deaths is “harmful and damaging” to students — and instead, teachers should focus on pro-Muslim narratives during 9/11 class discussions.

In recent years, we’ve seen professors tear down 9/11 memorial posters, schools ban 9/11 images from being hung on campus, and leftist students destroy flag displays commemorating the victims. Southern Methodist University even tried to move a 9/11 display off the main lawn, citing a new policy that the school respected “the right of all members of the community to avoid messages that are triggering, harmful, or harassing,” before public outrage forced the school to back down. And just this week, officials at Ely High School in Minnesota banned students from partaking in a flag display, claiming they want to remain “apolitical.”

As the years have passed, schools have forgone moments of silence and memorials. Administrators are more worried about offending students than telling the truth about that horrific day. When you can’t depend on government-run schools to carry on the memory of the lives lost, parents and students must take their own action.

This week, high-school and college students across the country are planting 2,977 flags on their campuses — one for every life lost. Since 2003, Young America’s Foundation has hosted the 9/11: Never Forget Project to ensure that the next generation remembers the atrocities of that day; more than 12 million flags have been planted since its inception.

It’s crucial now more than ever that we remember those lost as Joe Biden makes mistakes that empower Islamic terrorism around the world. We say “never forget” for a reason. Educate the next generation and hold our leaders accountable. We must fulfill our promise to never let this happen again.

PHOTO GALLERY: 9/11 Attacks

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