Sunday, November 6, 2011

Forgetting Never Forget: How 9/11 Will Be Lost To History

The events of September 11, 2001 was the most terrifying, horrific and tragic day of my life. I sat and watched the day unfold like everyone else in the world and could only ask why. Now, looking back on that day I have come to a realization that "Never Forget" is a temporary idea. Now for some I know this is offensive, but there has been this idea of honoring an such an event before in American History. Those days are remembered for the generation that lived through it but then just become a day that the past generation remember and left unnoticed by future generations. As much as people will not want to admit it 9/11 will be one of those days. How can I say this? Well because America already has two "Never Forget" events which we have all forgotten.


After any tragedy, America explodes with patriotism. As Americans we are filled with great pride for a country regardless of political, religious or social views, when the time calls we stand united. That is the way it always has been and will always be. 9/11 was our event but there has been events for past generations. As we will see those events were responded to with an out pouring of pro Americanism. And like 9/11 these two events reshaped America and opened a new chapter in American History. Both events also have the "Never Forget" slogan and as we will see, they have been forgotten. The two events are the Battle of the Alamo and the attack on Pearl Harbor.


The Alamo, now most famously known for Ozzy Osborne peeing on it was once the rally cry for the Texas War of Independence, you remember it now, "Remember the Alamo." Now that you "Remember the Alamo," lets look at the reasons why people wanted to remember the events surrounding the Alamo and the events that would later overshadow it and lose it to history.  The Battle of the Alamo took place in 1836 and lasted 13 days. The Alamo was captured several months prior as the Texan Army had pushed the Mexican forces out the Mexico Texas territory. After that the Alamo, a former Spanish mission, was turned into a fort and was home to some 100 Texan troops. On February 23, 1500 Mexican soldiers lead by President General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna set up shop around the Alamo and began preparing for an attack. The Texan and Mexican Armies exchanged fire in areas surrounding the Alamo but it was just a way to size each other up. The commanders of the Alamo knew that they could not hold off the Mexicans forever and called for men to come join the Texan Army at the Alamo, unfortunately only 100 reinforcements showed up. What would happen next would cause a nation to rise up in support of the cause of Texas' independence, because as we know, independence is what America is built on.


So on the morning of March the 6th, Santa de Anna unleashed the Mexican Army. They attacked wave after wave and as the saying goes, third times a charm, as the Mexicans then made their way inside the Alamo. As the Mexicans made their ways over the Alamo walls the Texans retreated inside the Alamo. However, the defenses of the Texans did little to stop the Mexicans. It was a total bloodbath at this point. The Mexicans went room by room killing every Texan in sight. Any Texans that made a run for it were chased down by the Mexican Calvary and killed while trying to escape. By the end of the siege, 200 Texans lay dead in pools of their own blood. But the Mexicans were still not done with them. They continued bayoneting bodies and firing shots into the corpses. Those few Texans that surrendered were also at the same time being executed by a firing squad. the Mexicans then continued to desecrate the bodies of the Texans by burning all the bodies and leaving nothing but a pile of ashes to be found. As for survivors, there was less then fifty and they were mainly women, children and slaves. Now why spare slaves? Well they were the fuel behind the fire that was the Texas War for Independence. Texas was pro slavery while Mexico had outlawed slavery years earlier. So because of this Santa de Anna spared those slaves that survived the battle. As for the women, they were given a blanket, two pesos and a warning for the remaining Texan Army, that warning was Santa de Anna was unbeatable. So lets recap, the Mexicans annihilated the Texans forces, desecrated their bodies, gave safe passage to slaves (remember Texas was pro slavery) and sent back a warning to get out. Now what to do, well as Americans and even more important, Texans, they weren't going to take that. Lets say hello to the United States first "Never Forget" moment, "Remember the Alamo."


Yes, the Battle of the Alamo was a complete and utter failure for the Republic of Texas, but it spawned a response not seen in America since the Intolerable Acts of 1774. "Remember the Alamo" rang out across the nation and drew men from across the states to Texas in the search of revenge. Now with the reports on the massacre, Americans obviously rallied around the Texan's fight for independence, which gave birth to "Remember the Alamo." Texan leader Sam Houston was meet by 400 volunteers, four days after the Battle of the Alamo. By April and additional 400 men arrived from across the nation. So basically in two months, "Remember the Alamo" drew in 800 men to fight for the independence of Texas. Those men and the Texas Regular Army would continue to fight the Mexicans, which would untimely lead to independence for Texas. However, now that Texas was independent state the issue that would make people "Forget the Alamo" was right around the corner.


Oh America and its lust for greatness. The idea of Manifest Destiny would ultimately overshadow the Texas War of Independence and the Alamo, making them nothing but a memory of the past. Manifest Destiny was the idea of America's divine destiny to expand from sea to shining sea. This idea in combination the state of Texas would then lead to the Mexican American War. Now how could this war make people forget about the events at the Alamo. First, it happen ten years prior and in the world before the internet and cable there was no way to memorialize it every year. Second, President Polk was very pro Manifest Destiny and had much to gain from westward expansion. Third, those Mexicans had it coming, well not really but Texas and California needed to become states. Finally fourth and perhaps most important, the issue of slavery The reason TX and CA needed to become states was to keep the balance between pro and anti slave states. One of the key reasons for the Mexican American War was the issue of slavery, Mexico having outlawed the use and Texas using it in the large cotton producing areas. So we can see that these issues would lead to the Alamo being forgotten. Today we learn about the Mexican American War and its relation to slavery and oh yea how that issue of slavery would eventually become one of the reasons for the Civil War which really pushed the Alamo out of the American conscience. In the case of the Alamo the motto "Remember the Alamo" was only temporary. Today we only use it because the Alamo is now a tourist site. In the end we see that this will mirror 9/11 and both mottoes will follow the same course.


Ok, so the Alamo happened  over 150 years ago, so why would we "Remember the Alamo" still, but what about the "date which will live in infamy." On December 7, 1941 the United States was attacked by the Japanese and President Franklin Roosevelt delivered the speech which would rally the American people and catapult them into World War II. Now, Pearl Harbor has one advantage over the Alamo and that was mass media. The news of bombing of Pearl Harbor spread from the mountains, to the prairies, to oceans white with foam in less then 24 hours. But what about today? Pearl Harbor Day is barely even noticed and it's printed on calendars as National Remembrance Day. Which brings me to the main point of the article and that is how 9/11 will follow this same path as the Alamo did and as we will see, Pearl Harbor does as well.


Now most American's remember the events at Pearl Harbor but I think that it is mainly due to the romanticizing of the events of 12/7. In 2001 Pearl Harbor received a kick in the butt with the film Pearl Harbor which featured stud muffin Ben Affleck and American sweetheart Josh Hartnett. Together these two made people "Remember December 7." Today, Pearl Harbor is nothing but a piece to a larger picture. As we will see like the Alamo, Pearl Harbor will be over shadowed by the events that followed, which is why Pearl Harbor is another example of how 9/11 will be lost to history.


The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise attack (see, another connection to 9/11) by the Japanese. It is well documented that 12/7 was just another sleepy Sunday. There was nothing special about the day, no signs of disaster on the horizon and people just went about their Sunday routines (much like Tuesday September 11, 2001). But around 8 o'clock in the morning that all changed. The Japanese unleashed an attack unseen before. The attack lasted only an hour but enough damage was done as if the attack lasted weeks. The Japanese attacked with 350 planes that must have look like a million planes to the unsuspecting Americans at the Pearl. Also the Japanese attacked in waves which only prolonged the attack and caused much more damage and confusion on the ground. The attack was meant to cripple the American Navy and spirit. But as we have seen in the events of the Alamo and again with 9/11, American's only respond by becoming proactive and patriotic. These then leads to a greatness that I feel is uniquely an American trait, which ironically leads to overshadowing the events that inspire us.


The attack ended around 9 am and the Americans at the Pearl were in a state of shock. All around the sleepy base stationed in paradise was death and destruction. In total 4 battleships and 2 destroyers were sunk, twelve others were severely damages. The American Navy's air forces were decimated, almost 200 planes were gone and over 150 were damaged. Yet these are just material things, weapons that could be replaced the real lose came with the amount of men lost at the Pearl. By the end of the day 2400 men had died and 1300 were injured. The following week was spent searching for survivors and salvaging the damaged ships. The day after the attack, perhaps the second most famous speech in American History was made by President Franklin Roosevelt. The Infamy Speech was made by President Roosevelt to Congress and the U.S. had officially declared war on Japan and boy where they in for it. The following years after the attack would soon come to eclipse Pearl Harbor and the attack, as World War II would give birth to heroes and legends that still live on today.


Let the propaganda posters fly. World War II is very well known for the propaganda posters used by every nation involved. But this bad boy that the U.S. released was the rally cry for America. "Remember December 7," lead to a shift in America. Pre-Pearl Harbor Americans were antiwar, but immediately after Americans wanted revenge (see a pattern here?). The attack had awaken the "sleeping beast" that the American military was. Factories were producing weapons of war and hundreds of thousand of men signed up ready to avenge Pearl Harbor and take on the world's greatest bad guys. Today, Pearl Harbor is now just a part of WWII. However, it is the start of it all, but when we look back at WWII we think of the D-Day landings, the bombing of London, the raising of the stars and stripes on Iwo Jima or the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These events are immortalized by movies, TV shows, books and so on. All of these events a the stuff of greatness, Americans fighting the good fight, for truth, justice and the American way. It is because of this that Pearl Harbor is becoming a forgotten rallying cry. Also the attacks on Pearl Harbor have been immortalize, as the Alamo and WTC sites have been. Today you can visit the USS Arizona Memorial which sites atop the sunken battleship as a reminder to Americans of the price of freedom. It is still  important today as there are still many WWII survivors that can recall that day which makes it live on, but in the larger picture Pearl Harbor is becoming, like the Alamo, a day lost to history.


Which brings us to the present and 9/11. Yes, the attacks on 9/11 may be the most horrific attack in American History, but lets recap and compare them to the Alamo and Pearl Harbor. Lets first see the difference and there is one major difference. The Alamo and Pearl Harbor were military installations, when the 9/11 attacks were aimed at civilian targets. For me this seems to be the sole difference between the events. Now what do they have in common? Well first, they were unpredictable. There was no sign of the events coming and no sign of the damage they would cause. Second, all three events pushed the United States into war. Third and most important, they each created a sense of patriotism that is not seen in a day to day basis. The events of 9/11 follow the same pattern as the Alamo and Pearl Harbor. After the attacks the United States was filled with fear and shock. This then lead to a speech made by the President about how the United States must react, as Polk, Roosevelt and now Bush did. After this we see an outpouring of patriotism. In post 9/11 America there was the Concert for New York, American flags flying from every home and a sense of patriotism that at least I can say I have never felt in my life. Third, the attacks had lead to a war, as did both the Alamo and Pearl Harbor. But it is here and now in our present time that the unfolding events will come to overshadowing the events of 9/11.


 Today we have the memory of 9/11 still fresh in our memories. The site of the attacks now even have a memorial, which so does the Alamo and Pearl Harbor. It also has events that follow it that will cause it to become forgotten. Eventually the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will move in and become the main focus and the events of 9/11 will just become a bullet point in the outline. As we take a look now at those wars we see them as Vietnamish, which will keep people angry over the wars and thus focus more on the reasons why we went to war, in which 9/11 is not the main reason as time passes. However, there is one more key to this puzzle of forgetting a major disaster and that is well us. We the People are the reason days like the day of the Battle of the Alamo and Pearl Harbor are no longer remembered. Now how are we to blame? Well we die, and with us goes the hardships and terror that these events caused. The next generation will always broadly overview the past, as we have done to our parents and they have done to their parents. In the end, these events still play a major role in American History, but it is us as Americans that allow them to be forgotten. So here's to "Remembering the Alamo," "Remember December 7," and "Never Forget." May these three slogans and the events always be a reminder to Americans as the price our nation has paid for freedom and sign to the next generation of American resilience, pride and patriotism.

1 comment:

  1. Knock Knock.
    Who's there?
    9-11 who?
    I thought you said you'd never forget?!