Ilan Sinelnikov
Ilan Sinelnikov

20 Years Later: Keeping the Memory of 9/11 Alive

Photo from the first 9/11 memorial SSI organized at the University of Minnesota, back in 2013.
Photo from the first 9/11 memorial SSI organized at the University of Minnesota, back in 2013.

This 9/11 marks 20 years since the largest terror attack on US soil, and while the horrific sights of planes crashing into the World Trade Center is vivid for many adults, today’s youth represent a new generation that cannot recall the atmosphere of a nation coming together after experiencing a major trauma. For the Israelis among us and for many in the Jewish community, even 20 years later, it is important to keep the memory of 9/11 and commemorate the date.

First, it is the Jewish and Israeli victims and survivors of the attacks that we shall not forget. The stories are too many to tell. Notably, I recall the story of Daniel Lewin, the Israeli-America, who is identified as the first victim of the September 11 terror attacks. Lewin was on board American Airlines flight 11, and attempted to foil the hijacking, but was stabbed by one of the terrorists. I also recall the story of my family’s friend, who in her third trimester of pregnancy walked for hours to safety crossing the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan. The families of the victims within our community, and those who remember the event, deserve a moment of recognition. We must communicate to them that we haven’t forgotten their loss and pain, and the same solidarity deserves to be shown to our fellow Americans from other communities who shared the terrifying experience of the terror attack.

Then, amongst the horror and fear, we shall not forget the many acts of bravery that deserve recognition. Acts of kindness, of selfless help, that only come out in extreme situations, that are worth telling even 20 years later. We shall remember that in addition to the descriptions of the victims, there arose many heroes, stories of whom we continue to discover in the news every so often and especially on anniversaries of the attack. First responders who bravely ran into burning buildings, coworkers and by-passers who helped each other escape, communities from across the country who donated funds and supplies following the event. When today’s news feels like a never-ending dividing force, let these acts of bravery and kindness that we remember serve as a testament to the beautiful way that we are bound together as Americans.

Of course, for an Israeli-American like myself, 20 years since 9/11 also brings to mind another bond, the strong sense of understanding that the need to stay resilient in the face of terror is crossing global lines. 20 years since 9/11, for me also marks 20 years since the Second Intifada, that shook Israeli cities with terror attacks, civilian casualties, and fear of gathering in crowded public places. In Israel, it is with horror that my family watched the 9/11 attack on TV, standing in silent solidarity that only people who also understood the pain and devastation that terror brings can feel. The trauma that connects between all people who’ve been at a scene of a terror attack has a lot in common. My mother, who once ran from a terror attack in Tel Aviv when a bomb exploded down the street from her at the Shuk, has a lot in common with her friend who ran across the Brooklyn Bridge.

When I was a student on college campus in Minnesota, remembering 9/11 and showing solidarity with the families of the victims, along with speaking about the personal bond I feel between Israel and the US being in the fight against terror together was extremely important. It brought me to create a simple memorial executed in a simple way, fill out a campus area with many small American flags, together creating the shape of the numbers 9/11. This was organized by the student group I founded, Students Supporting Israel (SSI), and I am happy to say that 10 years later this small memorial idea is still carried out on many campuses by our SSI’s chapters. But whether it is a small and grassroots public memorial that you organize like myself, or simply dedicate an hour to watch a documentary about 9/11, call your long time neighbor from NY who was there during the attack to check on them, or donate to a first responders fundraiser, make sure you do it with the 9/11 event in mind, so that the day will not be forgotten.

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This piece was co-authored by Valeria Chazin, SSI’s Board of Directors Chairwoman, and Ilan Sinelnikov, SSI’s President.

About the Author
Ilan Sinelnikov is the Founder and President of the national Students Supporting Israel movement.
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