Candlelight vigil on night of September 15, 2001, after the destruction of the Twin Towers. ©Mark D Phillips
Candlelight vigil on night of September 15, 2001, after the destruction of the Twin Towers. ©Mark D Phillips

On the darkest day of American history, we were in shock, traumatized. It was Sept. 11, 2001, and we sat on our Brooklyn rooftop, crying, watching the world, as we knew it, we feared, come to an end.

Yet after the World Trade Center fell, and Islamic maniacs had their way, after the dust settled – a prelude to future horrors – we picked up the pieces. Rather than crumbling, we were resolute.

“Never again,” we cried in unison. We were united – stronger, bolder, unbowed. The terrorists may have taken a round, but they did not win.

We were as one.

How things have changed.

Twenty-one years after planes flew into the World Trade Center, crashed into the Pentagon and into a field in Shanksville, Pa., the great promise that we once showed as people has been all but forgotten. Our unity has shattered. We are lost. At war with ourselves

This sense of disconnection was voiced to perfection by one of the first speakers at the annual rite at Ground Zero in New York City, near the spot where the Twin Towers once stood. He was one of the people who read the names of the dead, a haunting and beautiful ritual. It is punctuated by the sound of bells followed by and moments of silence as the ceremony reaches the times the planes flew into each tower, crashed into the Pentagon, into the field, and the towers fell.

“It took a tragedy to unite our country,” said the man, who identified himself as the cousin of a victim of the 1993 terror attack on the World Trade Center.

“In fact, no one cared if you were Republican, Democrat, age, gender, race,” he continued. “We were united.

“It took a tragedy to unite us.” At this point, some in the crows cheered.Vice president Kamala Harris applauded.

“And I want to remind all of you there it should not take another tragedy to unite our nation because if I have to stand at this podium again or another podium for another event because of lives lost because of dereliction of duty it’s gonna hurt just like it hurts me. I wanna thank everyone for being here.

“I’m gonna continue doing this until the day that I die and I am joined with my family up there.

“God bless America.”

His words resonated, but few could hear. The networks and cable channels barely covered the ceremony, cutting out to report on the drama surrounding the the death of the British queen. Only Web sites and New York 1, a cable channel which broadcasts only in the five boroughs of New York City, stayed with it from start to finish.

Even more frightening – the next generation seems destined to have little knowledge of the great evil of 9/11. Just 14 states mandate classroom lessons on the terror attacks. Elsewhere, some teachers in our temples of wokeness just chose to opt out of 9/11 studies out of fear of appearing Islamophobic.

The result: Ignorance.

What the terrorists failed to accomplish we have done to ourselves. Twenty-one years after 9/11, we are teetering on doom.

It is said that those who forget their history are condemned to repeat it.

The future is now.

"Satan In The Smoke" and "Hand of God" diptych of 9/11 photographs by Mark D Phillips taken nineteen years apart. ©Mark D Phillips

EVERY Picture TELLS a STORY:  “Satan in the Smoke” and “Hand of God”

Mark D Phillips personal story of capturing two iconic 9/11 images.