Tahlequah Daily Press

September 6, 2013

Commemoration: We can’t afford to forget 9/11


TAHLEQUAH — In the 1981 cult classic “Excaliber,” a memorable scene has the Knights of the Round Table gathered after a decisive victory in battle. Merlin urges them to remember their conquest and to savor it, “For it is the doom of men that they forget.”

This applies even more aptly in the wake of shared tragedy – and that’s why it’s so important that Americans continue to remember 9/11. What other day can be called to mind by three numerals divided by a backslash?

9/11 hardly needs a description, but for those too young to have its scenes implanted on their minds, it was the day terrorists hijacked two airliners and crashed them into the World Trade Center in New York City. Even today, the exact number of those who perished is argued, but it’s safe to say it approached 3,000.

More than 400 of the victims were firefighters, police officers and emergency rescue workers who willingly sacrificed themselves to save the lives of others. These men and women, and their peers who were lucky enough to get out alive, are heroes in the purest sense.

Tahlequah is fortunate enough to be home to one of those valiant FDNY EMTs who was at Ground Zero. The Press has interviewed him a few times and reported on his incredible story, and so have other media outlets. His name is Ralph Winburn, and he will be speaking when the Cherokee County Veterans Council holds its annual commemorative ceremony in the Armory Municipal Center’s Veterans Auditorium, 101 N. Water Ave.

Ralph is expected to take the podium at 11 a.m., and if you haven’t heard him speak, we encourage you to do so. Ralph is not an “idol” – he’s no professional football player, movie star or rock musician. Rather, he is a humble man, the epitome of courage – the kind of person we should teach our children to emulate.

We’ve been asked before why the Veterans Council would pay solemn tribute each year to those who died in the line of duty on 9/11. The answer is a simple one: While many of the heroes of that fateful day were not “military” veterans, they put their lives on the line each and every day for people they’ve never met, in service to community and country. Few understand that commitment as well as U.S. veterans.

We’ll get another chance to honor our veterans come November, but in the meantime, let’s help them salute the memory of another group of luminaries who share so much in common with them. While we do that, let’s ponder the lessons of 9/11.

Americans should never take our lifestyles and our values for granted. Okies perhaps know this better than anyone, having come through the nightmare of the Murrah Federal Building bombing in OKC on April 19, 1995. We should grab any opportunity to cherish what we have, and reaffirm our obligation to our fellow citizens. We cannot afford to forget.