HUNT COLUMN: Never forget

Published 10:30 am Saturday, September 18, 2021

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By Cathy Hunt
Troup County Chairwoman

If you’ve spent as many hours in schools over the course of your life as I have, momentous events in our world are sure to be entwined in your school memories.

Twenty years ago today (as I write this), I arrived at school and remarked to myself what a beautiful September day it was — a cloudless, vividly blue sky, a touch of cool in the early morning air — just like today. About an hour later, the young teacher across the hall from me stepped to my doorway and told me I might want to turn on the TV, that something awful was happening in New York. So I did. Soon the students and I were raptly watching the news reports of the aviation

“accident.” Shortly after nine, we watched in horror the live broadcast of the second plane hitting the other tower. I said aloud, “These are not accidents.”

As the news made its way around the school, and we nervously awaited whatever might happen next, the decision was made not to change classes. Everything was eerily quiet in the building except for the voices of the TV announcers. Then came the Pentagon, then came Shanksville, and then came the grounding of all air travel across the country. It was frightening.

We didn’t have school the next day. I watched TV constantly, but did attend a twilight vigil around the flagpole at THS one evening. What kept me from feeling absolutely hopeless was the way the country pulled together in a wave of patriotism and concern for others. However, I also remember thinking with sadness how easily forgotten those feelings would be in twenty, ten, even five years.

I had the privilege last week to attend the annual JROTC commemoration of 9/11 at that same school flagpole where I stood twenty years ago. Though the students present hadn’t even been born on 9/11, everyone watched in silence, hands or hats over hearts, as the flag was lowered to half mast; listened to a student play a flawless rendition of Taps; heard remarks from that same young teacher — now school principal — who brought me the news that day. A Troup High graduate, Marjorie Champion Salamone, who died at the Pentagon, was remembered as she is every year.

My sad memories of those days are made even sadder when I think of how, twenty years later, we (and the whole world) are embroiled in another huge crisis which has resulted in many thousand more deaths, but this time, instead of pulling together to defeat a common enemy, we are digging in on different sides of a national debate. What would those fearless public servants who, covered in ash and sweat, gave their lives to save others, think of a refusal to wear a cloth over one’s face and nose to save lives? What would the passengers of Flight 93, who bravely fought the hijackers and died when the plane crashed into a field, probably protecting either the Capitol or the White House from a strike, think of someone who won’t take a vaccine to help stop the spread of a deadly virus? What would the thousands of men and women who enlisted in the armed services to fight a war on terror halfway across the world and gave their lives doing it think of our angry, self-centered society?

Most of us will never be called upon to make the sacrifices that were endured as a result of the terror attacks against the USA on September 11, 2001. But we can do better than we’re doing right now, in honor of those heroes and those that now fight on the front lines of our current battle. Never forget.