Fourteen years and counting
The intentional taking of human life on a mass scale seems unfathomable. Darkened minds can target thousands of others for killing so impersonally and indiscriminately. And what response, beyond appeals to justice, is called for?
September 11, 2001, was a quiet, late fall day in the eastern United States -- until 19 jihadists, fueled by ancient hatreds and longstanding resentments seized four airliners in order to crash them into landmark buildings representing American prestige and power. At New York City’s World Trade Center, two hijacked jetliners took out each of the Twin Towers in Manhattan. A third plane plowed into the Pentagon just outside Washington, D.C. And valiant passengers on the fourth, finally alerted to the attacks, attempted retaking of their hostage aircraft, causing it to augur into the ground in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
A total of 2,977 people were murdered on the date often memorialized in the 14 years since as 9/11.
Megan McCarthy was two years old at the time. She is now a senior at Steele Canyon High School, where she serves as the Associated Study Body’s commissioner for community and public relations. She participated on the afternoon of September 10, in organizing volunteers who planted just shy of 3,000 flags at Grossmont College in remembrance of each individual victim of 9/11. She lingered afterward to finalize plans for the following day with her brother, Riley, and Joshua Powell, another fellow student at Steele Canyon.
The task on the anniversary’s eve was in preparation for a ceremony the day after to honor those who fell to the terrorists’ attacks. McCarthy noted that eight students from Steele Canyon were part of the flag-placing team. And she described how the student body’s involvement with the memorial event had been preceded with viewing a documentary film about that infamous day 14 years earlier.
McCarthy acknowledged that she was too young to remember 9/11. “I know about the textbook facts,” she said. “The attacks affected America as a whole. But what happened should be remembered as more than what is written in a textbook.”
She expressed surprise at learning from the video documentary that alongside the lives taken, an estimate counts the economic cost at $1 trillion, as the amount of money lost from the event.
She continued, “After seeing the planes fly into the buildings, I didn’t have any words.”
McCarthy paused, and then went on, “The event united the country. There was no complete chaos, like might have been expected. I credit President Bush for getting back to usual as soon after that as he did.” she said. Her reference was to then-President George W. Bush.
She described a poster she was completing for the subsequent day’s ceremony, emblazoned “Never Forget.” She said of the associated activities, “I have enjoyed working with new ASB members. I think memorials bring us together.” Even those who cannot remember can pledge to never forget.
The formal Friday morning ceremony at Grossmont College was hosted by representatives of California State Senator Joel Anderson and staff at Grossmont College, featuring speeches by Cal Fire Battalion Chief Jeff Lannon, El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells, El Cajon Councilman Bob McClellan, Grossmont College President Dr. Nabil Abu-Ghazaleh, MCAS Miramar Chaplain Wayne “Bob” Freiberg, and Steele Canyon High School ASB President Trevor Krantz. A small companion ceremony at Cuyamaca College had as planned speakers Governing Board Student Trustee Evan Esparza and a representative of the college’s student veteran’s organization.