It’s Friday, September 10th and SSG Salvatore Giunta is being lauded for being a Medal of Honor recipient. The SSG is not a neophyte when it comes to valor: He has been awarded the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, two Army commendation Medals, the CIB and the Parachutist Badge. Simply put, he has bigger balls, a bigger heart, and a greater sense of responsibility and patriotism than most citizens.
Tomorrow is Saturday, September 11th, and nine years ago, 2,977 people were murdered. At the time, SSG Giunta was 16 years old; he enlisted in November 2003.
I have many friends who served and who are still serving. “Serving” sounds like something you have at a warm family meal, perhaps Thanksgiving or Christmas or this past week’s Rosh Hashanah or to celebrate the end of Ramadan. Serving to SSG Giunta means being shot at, dodging IEDs, or keeping suicide bombers away.
While the SSG is receiving richly deserved accolades, I’m afraid that fewer and fewer people are as passionate about remembering the victims of 9/11/2001 – the day so many lost their Ozzie and Harriet view of our world. Many here in New York are fervently against the proposed mosque near Ground Zero and their voices are passionate about their views; local news outlets are allocating an increasing amount of space to all the different angles of the issue.
Yet these same people have lost their voices when it comes to questioning why the Towers haven’t been rebuilt. Some have laughingly forwarded emails about building a “proposed” gay bar next to the proposed mosque. Many are saying “enough with people who worked the pile and are complaining about cancer or leukemia.” 9/11 news stories are now printed on pages numbered with two digits.
Time heals but time also forgets.
Never forget the day that served to galvanize a very special segment of a generation of men and women and inspire them to serve. Give SSG Giunta all the credit and adulation he deserves but remember my friends Billy Burke, Captain of 21 Engine who ordered his men away from the Towers and then ran back in, and Dave Fontana, who on the day of his wedding anniversary told his wife that wouldn’t be long and that they would have breakfast together. Billy has never been found and Dave never celebrated his wedding anniversary.
I still laugh at the memories of my friends who were murdered.
I still cry.
I can’t forget.