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I Too Sing America: African-American Heroes and 9/11
The events of September 11, 2001 will forever be remembered in the hearts and minds of people throughout the nation and throughout the world. On that day, the world witnessed a horrific act of violence in which thousands of people perished on one day. Many families were affected by this event, and the collapsing of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center was of particular significance to me because my grandmother worked in one of the buildings prior to her retirement. There were thousands of victims from these horrific acts, and there were also hundreds of heroes who voluntarily gave their lives for our country on that day. Indeed, much of the country was united through its anger and grief, and there was little debate about the postmodern distinctives of race, class or gender as it concerned this horrific tragedy and our collective response to it. However, when many of the pictures of the heroes of the great tragedy (e.g., firefighters and police officers) were shown throughout the nation, many people noticed that African-Americans were not readily displayed among this exceptional group of citizens. The conspicuous absence of African-American heroes was explicitly mentioned by many people who read Time magazine’s Commemorative edition of 9/11 which captured the tragedy in pictures approximately ten years after the event. The obvious absence of African-American faces caused many to wonder if we were somehow less patriotic than other groups. Unfortunately, as of today, I am only aware of one video documentary, which is titled “All Our Sons,” that chronicles the extraordinary effort of African-Americans firefighters who gave their lives for freedom and justice.
Christians are often called to spread God’s message of redeeming love in an imperfect world; therefore, it will always be important for me and others to note the significant role that African-American played in building a “more perfect union.” As the country continues heal from this tragic set of events and to realize the vision of the founders, valiant efforts must be made to chronicle the extraordinary role that African-Americans have played in defending and building our country. In an attempt to highlight the significance of African-American patriotism in the building of our American democracy, the famous African-American poet named Langston Hughes wrote: “…I am the darker brother…they’ll see how beautiful I am…I, too, am American.” Crispus Attucks was an African-American and the first person to give his life for freedom in the Revolutionary War, and we remain indebted to African-American heroes such as Leon W. Smith Jr., Shawn E. Powell, Vernon Cherry, Andre Fletcher, Ronnie L Henderson, Gerard Jean Baptiste, Keithroy Maynard, William L. Henry Jr., Karl Joseph, and Tarel Coleman, Keith Glascoe and Vernon Richard for their extraordinary sacrifice on September 11th. May God continue to bless and keep their families and friends.