Every generation of Americans has experienced a national tragedy that is forever burned into their collective psyche.
For the Greatest Generation it was Pearl Harbor. For the Baby Boomers it was the assassination of JFK.
And for Generation Xers that day was September 11, 2001.
Any individual who was cognizant of the sudden, brazen attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and United Flight 93 remembers where they were when they first saw the terrible image of a civilian jetliner slamming into one of the Twin Towers and the horrible footage of their collapse.
After the country got through the shock and grief, the same spirit that motivated men like Cleveland Indians pitcher Bob Feller to enlist in the Navy two days after the Japanese bombed Hawaii led men and women into serve their country after 9-11, most notably Arizona Cardinals safety Pat Tillman, who like Feller before him, passed up a lucrative contract to go after the perpetrators.
Even the entertainment industry offered support (initially) for the Republican administration’s war of vengeance against the sponsors of the 9-11 attacksand their protectors in Afghanistan.
As the struggle to root out al-Qaeda and the Taliban was waged across the world, the task of replacing the physical structure that the Islamist terrorists targeted (for a second time) as a representation of the American economy began to crawl forward through hearings, planning sessions, negotiations and finally actual construction.
The ground breaking on the new Freedom Tower, since renamed One World Trade Center, was held in July 2004 with work on the new tower beginning in April 2006.
And while we rebuilt, our country’s camouflaged “first responders”, who are memorialized with a magnificent statue at the World Trade Center site, pursued our enemies to the ends of the earth, removing them from their safe havens and holding them accountable wherever they might hide.
The shimmering glass and steel edifice began to rise from the construction pit that millions of tourists had glumly stared into from an observation deck in 2008 and now dominates the lower Manhattan skyline as the Twin Towers had previously done.
Last year the 9/11 Museum opened to the public and this past May, the observation deck on the structure’s 100th floor began welcoming tourists.
The memorial features two waterfalls in the shape of large squares within the footprint of the destroyed Twin Towers that are bordered by the names of those who died in the 1993 and 2001 World Trade Center attacks. They form a somber visual that underscores the great loss of life from the terror attacks.
The museum is located below ground in the foundation of the former Twin Towers and features media footage of the attacks and artifacts from the site, including destroyed office equipment and sections of the former office complex.
But the museum does more than simply present faces and name of those who died, but in same cases their final words.
In one section visitors can listen to phone messages left by the hostages on the doomed airplanes to their loved ones. These recordings are the most moving aspect of the museum.
The new World Trade Center memorial, museum and office complex honors both the memories of the civilian victims and the first responder heroes who ran towards the danger while also serving as a potent symbol of our nation’s capacity to rebound from an unprecedented national tragedy.
Had the site remained a barren area, it would have been a de facto monument to the evil forces that sucker punched America fourteen years ago. Instead the 1,776 foot business tower symbolizes our country’s resilience and the ultimate futility of the attack.
Yes, they achieved a spectacular act of death and destruction, though al-Qaeda and company failed to wreck America’s resolve.
While the murderous Islamists took robbed us of lives, life in general and commerce in America goes on.