On August 13th New York City officials announced that the 9/11 memorial Tribute to Light would be cancelled due to coronavirus concerns and health risks that were “far too great”. To think that the shining blue twin beams in honor of the fallen World Trade Center towers and the nearly 3,000 lives lost to terrorism wouldn’t illuminate the sky was gut wrenching.
What was New York thinking? The strongest, bravest, most powerful city in the world was suddenly cowardly and hypocritical. New York was simply going to ignore the devastation of 9/11 due to health concerns. Yet, its mayor, Bill de Blasio, would boldly and publicly gather with thousands to participate in Black Lives Matter protests without worry. He would proudly stand side by side with hundreds for arts and crafts by painting a mural outside of Trump Tower. In what universe are these activities less dangerous than setting up a memorial light display? How does a city that just 19 years ago promised to never forget, cancel a tribute?
Mass protests and riots—yes!
September 11th memorial—no.
With his eye clearly on bigger political prizes, Governor Cuomo eventually restored the tribute. However, it was too little too late. Those who remember the pain of 9/11 and vowed on that day in 2001 to never forget were traumatized and fed up. I was one of them. I am the wife of a 9/11 survivor.
My husband was late to work on September 11th. He was the CEO of a company on the 102nd floor of One World Trade Center. He saw the towers crash before his eyes. As horrific and life changing as this was, his seven colleagues who were in the office that morning suffered a far greater horror. This horror is why the biased and political actions of the New York City ruling class are disgusting. Somehow, they have managed to forget. Somehow, they have managed to politicize death by terrorism.
In an attempt to remedy New York’s pathetic political cowardice, I joined forces with other patriotic citizens who decided to start a 9/11 boat parade to honor all those who lost their lives. The agenda would include playing the National Anthem, observing moments of silence at 9:58 and 10:28 a.m. (when the two planes hit the towers) and reading the names of those who perished on September 11th. I asked to speak the names of my husband’s seven fallen colleagues.
Instead of virtue signaling and cancelling, we decided it was far more important to remind people that Americans are resilient. We are strong. We are powerful. In the face of great tragedy, we will unify to effectuate actual change. Without breaking shop windows, stealing Nikes, throwing Molotov cocktails or threatening innocent bystanders, we know how to achieve goals, experience success, and be role models.
I started USA Strong to honor those Americas who died on September 11. Those who worked, those who served, those who ran into the fire because they wouldn’t let terrorism win and because they were willing to risk their lives because they loved their city, their country, and their fellow Americans.
On September 11, 2020 we MUST show our love of country by conducting our own memorials and celebrations of life because we will not let terrorism or cowardice or the politicization of a tragedy win.
The sad brand of terrorism we are experiencing now is not like that from nearly two decades ago. It’s entitled, it’s forgetful, and sadly, it starts here at home. This time, it’s Americans who hate this country because they couldn’t control the outcome of an election and they denigrate our proud history as oppressive and evil, perhaps as evil as the men who brought down the World Trade Center 19 years ago today. They too would rather burn the country down instead of shine lights in the sky to honor life. For them the memory of 9/11 may be distant or even irrelevant, for the rest of us it’s personal. We will never forget.
Erin M. Elmore is an attorney, political strategist, on-air correspondent, and the Executive Director of USA Strong, a grassroots organization focused on rebuilding American greatness. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.