2,983 Lives Lost and Honored

When you enter the Memorial Hall of the National September 11th Memorial Museum, something that immediately catches your eye is the East Perimeter Wall. An imposing gray cement structure on which is mounted a plaque, a quote by the poet Virgil, and 2,983 painted blue squares.

The simple black plaque on the wall reads: Reposed behind this wall are the remains of many who perished at the World Trade Center site on September 11, 2001. The Repository is maintained by the Chief Medical Examiner of the City of New York. The plaque gently informs viewers of the purpose of the wall and provides an aura of somberness and specialness to each individual.

Also, displayed on the wall is a quote taken from Virgil’s epic Aeneid. Forged with steel from the original Twin Towers, it says: “No day shall erase you from the memory of time.” More than a quote, it is a commitment to never forget what happened that fateful Tuesday.

But above all, it is the 2,983 individually painted blue squares that make the wall into the profoundly moving memorial that it is. The complete piece of art called Trying to Remember the Color of the Sky on That September Morning memorializes each and every person killed in the September 11 attacks as well as the victims of the February 1993 World Trade Center bombing by giving them their own painted square. Each 10.5” x 10.5” paper square is painted a unique hue of the color blue to symbolize the individuality of everyone killed in the attacks. But when one steps away from the wall and takes a look from afar, they see a mosaic of blue squares binding together to form one blue mass. A united mass of light blues and dark blues encircling the Virgil quote.

When nineteen al-Qaeda terrorists seized control of four passenger jetliners full of innocent civilian passengers and turned them into deadly guided missiles, they meant to destroy us. They attacked the Twin Towers, the symbols of America’s financial strength. They attacked the Pentagon, the symbol of America’s military might. Even so, they tried to fly a plane into Washington, D.C., the very seat of America’s political power. 

On 9/11, chaos reigned, but so did courage. From civilians helping civilians to the heroic acts of our first responders, America responded to evil cowardice with strength and determination. Strength pushed Americans to wake up the next day and move forward with a mission to hold up and help their fellow man. Determination is what urged Americans to back a government fixated on rooting out and destroying evil and radical Islamic terrorism.

Yes, at 8:46 AM on a Tuesday in September, the whole world changed. But the citizens of the United States of America did not let that stop them from being Americans. George W. Bush said it best when he addressed the nation on the night of the attacks: “These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat. But they have failed: our country is strong. A great people has been moved to defend a great nation. Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shattered steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.”

Now, as memory begins to turn into history, where once stood two towers, now stands one. A shining torch of freedom and hope for all the world to look to for strength. A symbol of unity and remembrance. Just like the wall. Let us not look at the East Perimeter Wall and see individual tragedies, but hope. Hope that we can unite to fix our nation’s problems.

Yes, the Virgil quote is meant for the victims of the horrible attacks on our country, but why can’t it be for us? Why can’t we unite in the same way the citizens of that time did to fix our great country? That quote is meant for every group of people who unites behind combatting evil. Let us become the wall, different but united. I’m sure it is what the 2,983 would want.

Remember 9/11 and pray for our nation.
-Antonio L. Jimenez

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