The passage of time heals all wounds, however, we cannot allow ourselves to forget those who perished and the suffering of their families. We as a nation are duty bound to honor the memories of these people and the families who lost their loved ones. In less than a year, people are already forgetting the magnitude of the pain that befell our country. To forget these losses is to trivialize them.

The horrific events that occurred one year ago serves to remind us of our humanity and inherent frailty. That day, several thousand Americans and foreign nationals boarded routine flights, commuted to work and were in the process of working when a twist of fate ended their lives in a violent cataclysm. We as a nation were united, albeit momentarily, as every religious group, ethnic group, and nationality was affected. That day, we were brothers and sisters. Christians, Jews and Muslims ? all of these groups, sharing the same God, divided only by ideology, were united that day by tragic circumstance. That day, we were Americans.

How many families will grieve the loss of their sons, daughters, mothers, and fathers? How many holidays will have an empty chair at the table as a sobering reminder of our losses? The very celebrations that bring families together will remind them that their loved ones will never again share these moments. These families embody the loss of the nation.

How difficult must it be for the parents of these victims? They raised their children. They drove them to countless soccer games and school events. They agonized when they were old enough to drive a car. Imagine their sleepless nights when their children began college, and the pride they felt when they graduated.

Some of these young men and women were beginning their careers, getting engaged or were newlyweds. I cannot think of anything worse for these parents than burying their children.

I cannot help but shed a tear for the ones who lost their betrothed. Their lives were just beginning together, and in one instant, everything was taken away.

For those who did not suffer such losses, it is possible to move on ? these families can never forget.

What about the widows who gave birth to the children of these men? Their husbands will never hear their newborns’ laughter, crying or experience the intimate bonding when they cradle their sleeping infant and feel the gentle beating of their tiny heart. What about the widowers who will raise their children without their wives? How many anniversaries will be marred by their deep profound loss? How many strolls, holding each other’s hands, will not be walked?

Not all the reminders of these victims are painful. Their losses are tempered by the living legacy they left us ? their children.

The smallest victims of this tragedy particularly struck me ? the children of the men and women who sacrificed their lives. Never will they run to the door as Mommy or Daddy comes home from work. I can only imagine how their little hearts must leap when they hear the doorbell ring, in a naive belief that Mommy or Daddy has returned home. Nor will they ever be held in the safety of their parents’ loving arms.

My younger brother, Alexis Wachtel, Class of 2001, works for the federal government near the Pentagon. Had the plane veered slightly, he too may have perished.

If this were the case, my family and I would be continuing to mourn his death. It could have been anyone. This is why we are obligated never to forget.

That day, we lost our brothers and sisters, our mothers and fathers. Some died so that others may live, some died because they could not leave, some died to prevent further destruction, the rest of us died inside. While we should continue with our lives, we must carry their memories with us.

Wachtel is an alumnus of the Class of 2000 and an MS Candidate in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Rochester and can be reached at

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