There are so many numbers to remember today.
In 2020, we’re consumed by a pandemic and our culture is overwrought with anger — a palpable disdain manifesting itself in heartbreaking ways. For months, we’ve watched as riots around the country have decimated livelihoods, destroyed businesses, ended lives, and crushed hopes. Much of it has happened while law-abiding citizens have been tucked away in their homes, many of them alone, consumed with fears over when — or if — it will be safe to re-emerge into society as COVID-19 continues to spread.
I was 9 years old when terrorists attacked us. I remember sitting in a classroom at my Lutheran elementary school in Hampton, Virginia, when our principal, Ms. Robinson, alerted my home-room teacher of the confusing horrors unfolding in New York City.
For a moment, time seemed to stand still. Bewildered, I watched as my teacher hurried out of our classroom and huddled in the hallway with other teachers nearby. Soon enough, she walked back into our room and told us what was happening. She said a prayer.
In the days that followed, through my elementary eyes, I watched as America came together, as politicians of every persuasion coalesced, promising to create a world safer and more prosperous. They said they were doing it for 9-year-old me.
But 19 years later, I think they’ve forgotten. Here are a few numbers to help us remember, because they aren’t just numbers — they’re precious lives.
We lost 2,977 people on Sept. 11, 2001. Seventy-two of those people were law enforcement officers and 343 were firefighters.
All of their names were read aloud Friday morning, marking the anniversary of the day three hijacked airplanes careened into the Twin Towers in New York City, the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Here are four other numbers to remember: 8:46 a.m., 9:02 a.m., 9:37 a.m., and 10:03 a.m. Those timestamps mark the exact moments the planes crashed. The fallen heroes’ names were read and wreaths were laid in those intervals Friday morning.
In the years since the attacks, 241 more NYPD officers have died of illnesses brought on by the devastating assault.
“Together, our community of active and retired law enforcement … will ensure that the memorial fund continues its mission to honor the fallen, tell the story of our nation’s law enforcement, and make it safer through those who serve,” said Marcia Ferranto, CEO of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
I pray in these divisive times we’ll remember how tragedy united us. As law enforcement officers have become public enemy No. 1 and tolerance seems a thing of the past, I hope we can pause to reflect — if only for a moment — on the sobering numbers we promised 19 years ago to never forget.
Take the courageous step today of choosing to be better.