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Speak of the Week: 9/11 and the Reading of the Names

Speak of the Week: 9/11 and the Reading of the Names

“Speak of the Week” is our new feature on the Speakers’ Spotlight blog, which spotlights what we feel were the most impactful words spoken, from anywhere in the world, over the previous seven days.

As we continue building “Speak of the Week”, one thing we’ve found is that we haven’t been short of contenders for the week’s title, and this week has been no different. From the Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson’s rather shocking response of “What is Aleppo?” when asked how he would address the refugee crisis in the war-torn Syrian city if elected president, to Hillary Clinton declaring that one “could put half of Trump’s supporters into what [she calls] the basket of deplorables,” the week was hardly short of options.

But, shocking though both statements were, it was a quieter, more profound statement that caught our ears – and our hearts – this week.

September 11, 2016, marked the 15th anniversary of 9/11, a date which changed not only the lives of New Yorkers and Americans, but the lives of people around the world. The images of the World Trade Towers crumbling; of the rubble of the Pentagon buildings; and of the few charred remains of United Airlines Flight 93 scattered in a field in Pennsylvania, are forever imprinted in our collective consciousness. 9/11 is the tragic day that marked a new era in time, a date that has since coloured everything from how we travel to how we recognize and fight terror.

The events of 9/11 caused Americans to promise that they will never forget the 3,000 victims of those 19 hijackers — that they will never forget the bravery of the firefighters, the other first responders, and the civilians who risked, and in most cases lost, their own lives trying to help those at the centre of the mayhem. On 9/11 Americans promised they would never forget the heartbreak of that day, and by doing so hope to ensure that a similar event will not repeat itself again.

It is for this reason that we chose the poignant “Reading of the Names” ceremony at the 9/11 Memorial on Sunday as our “Speak of the Week”.

One of the constants in how America remembers the attacks every year, the Reading of the Names ceremony gives back a voice to the victims whose voices were so abruptly taken from them, and a voice to those who lost them. Over the course of four hours, the 3000 names of those who perished are read aloud by the family members, friends, and colleagues whose loved ones died that day, interspersed with their memories of, and messages to, the dead.

The speaking of the victims’ names reminds every one of the enormity of loss, and that the destruction on 9/11 was more than just buildings that came toppling down it was the lives of the victims and their survivors that came toppling down as well.