LEWISBURG — Americans must never forget what happened 18 years ago, on 9/11, in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, a Bucknell professor said Monday night, in an emotional discussion of the lessons learned, and things since forgotten about that day.
Speaking to an audience of more than 75 people at the monthly Susquehanna Valley Conservatives meeting at the Best Western, Country Cupboard, sociologist Alexander Riley, author of Angel Patriots: the crash of United Flight 93, spoke about the heroic actions of the 40 passengers on Flight 93 and their story is one that should never be forgotten.
His book, he said, is not only about the memorialization of the crash of United Flight 93 in Shanksville, PA on Sept. 11, 2001. It is much more than the simple facts of the plane's fatal dive. It is about America, its view of death and heroism, the role of religion and religious symbolism in American life, and cultural battles over all of those topics.
Keeping the memory in people's head of what happened that day is something Riley has vowed to do.
And it is why John and Alanna Morris, of Mifflinburg, were among the 75 people in the audience.
"I should know more about Shanksville," John said, before the speech began. "I'm in my 20s. I don't know much more than what I read. I'm here because I'm feeling I need to read and research more about that day."
Riley asked the audience: what has been learned in those 18 years since 2001?
"It is amazing to me that students don't know when 9/11 happened," he said. "Not all young people. But some can't give me the year. And then when talking to young people — again not all — about the meaning of 9/11, I get the sense of how poorly we educate our people about that day."
Riley called it "the drift" away from knowing the truth about that day and why we were attacked, and he blames "older folks who are failing on the job to tell their children about that day."
Riley argued against the notion — "often said by the culturally elite — that 9/11 was really politically incorrect because the end effect was animus against Muslim Americans."
But the data shows that "this is a stretch way beyond the boundaries of reality," he said.
Hate crimes against Muslims jumped 8 percent right after Sept. 11, Riley said. "And while any 8 percent rise in hate crime is deplorable. I am not for a second denying that it matters when there is any amount of increase in hate crimes. But why is it considered politically incorrect to say that 9/11 was carried out by a group of self-identifed Muslims. They made the claim. Not me. I'm not being politically incorrect or Islamaphobic."
When it comes to Flight 93, is it politically incorrect to say that four men took it upon themselves to stop the terrorism, Riley asked. "Some people say the plane was filled with men with high testosterone.
"How is the story of United Flight 93 in any way politically incorrect," Riley asked. "You had four guys who said we need to make a plan. They were being pragmatic. They were facing people who had weapons and they think might even have a bomb. So they figure who is best suited to get past them, remove them, and get to the cockpit. That was their goal."
Here is what we should all remember about Flight 93, Riley said."It did not reach its target because the people in the plane found out what was going on in New York City, and in Washington D.C. They put the pieces together figuring they were going to fly the plane into some other landmark, and 'that ain't happening on our watch.' And so these four guys got together, and put a plan together."
The terrorist who took control of the flight — they picked the wrong plane, Riley said. "It was the start of America fighting back.