Purposeful Amnesia

Back in 2009, I interviewed one of the most prominent historians working on memory and 9/11. I asked her how people were processing the events of 2001. Her answer haunts me to this day. “To some extent, we’re living in a time of purposeful amnesia,” they said. “Otherwise, we couldn’t get out of bed in the morning and go to work.”

Purposeful amnesia. We’re choosing to forget.

So, with that phrase echoing in my mind as I wake up this morning, almost 18 years to the day that America turned this terrible corner — here’s a few things we’re forgetting that it may be time to remember.

The 28 Pages: Redacted
In July 2003, a committee of the Senate and House released the 9/11 Report. A 28-page section on possible Saudi links to the attacks was redacted at the insistence of the Bush administration. Robert Mueller, then the director of the FBI, was pressured by Congress, but insisted that the redactions remain, saying that revealing sources and methods would make it harder for us to win the war on terror. In 2016, following a review, the Obama Administration approved the declassification of the partially redacted 28 pages.



One critical name remains redacted. Lawyers for the plaintiffs in the suit filed in 2003 by injured victims, families of victims and others, allege Saudi government employees knowingly assisted the hijacking plot. The 9/11 case plaintiffs want the government to disclose the name, which was redacted from a 2012 FBI document describing assistance given by men in southern California to two of the hijackers. The lawyers believe the person may be a Saudi official they suspect tasked two men in California with assisting the hijackers.

Terry Strada, national chair of the 9/11 Families & Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism, is hopeful that the name will finally be released 18 years later. Attorney General William Barr submitted a request to a federal court in New York for an extension until Sept. 12. The request was granted.

The Terrorist Screening Database List
The FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center was created in 2003 because the 9/11 Commission report found that agencies did not share counterterrorism information.

Today, there are over 1.2 million people on the center’s Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB). The database includes a staggering 4,600 Americans and green-card holders. 

Last week, a federal judge ruled that the process behind the secret federal watch list is unconstitutional.  Judge Anthony Trenga wrote: “The vagueness of the standard for inclusion in the TSDB, coupled with the lack of any meaningful restraint on what constitutes grounds for placement on the Watchlist, constitutes, in essence, the absence of any ascertainable standard for inclusion and exclusion, which is precisely what offends the Due Process Clause.”

2021 Trial Date Set
Five men accused of planning 9/11 attacks will be tried on the 20th anniversary of 9/11. A military judge set a date in early 2021 for the start of the long-stalled war crimes trial. The five defendants were arraigned in May 2012. Air Force Col. W. Shane Cohen set the start date in an order setting motion and evidentiary deadlines in a case that has been bogged down in pretrial litigation.

And, a bit of good news:

Presidential Candidates Urged to Suspend Campaign Rhetoric In Observance of the 9/11 Anniversary
The 9/11 nonprofit that founded and organizes the federally recognized September 11 National Day of Service and Remembrance, known as “9/11 Day,” has written to all candidates running for president, and is placing ads in major newspapers, requesting that these and other candidates running for public office voluntarily suspend for Sept. 11 all political advertising, and campaign-related social and traditional media activities, in favor of nonpartisan expressions of service, unity and prayer. Volunteer at

You Are Here: A Come From Away Story has a theatrical release on 9/11.
“I don't think I've ever seen a doc evoke the sort of emotional reaction/standing ovation that You Are Here: A Come From Away Story did,” wrote Scott Feinberg in The Hollywood Reporter.

9/11 was a day of shock and terror. And yet on that same day, on an island about 3,000 kilometers from Manhattan, in the middle of the Atlantic, the citizens of Gander, Newfoundland, gave voice to all that is good and generous within humanity. Get tickets here.

Table of Silence at Lincoln Center
And for New Yorkers,  Lincoln Center will once again host the Buglisi Dance Theatre’s Table of Silence project in the central plaza from 8:15 to 8:46 a.m. on the 11th.

The performance involves more than 150 dancers and often draws a large crowd. The 9/11 Table of Silence Project is a multicultural performance ritual that celebrates humanity, compassion and the healing power of art — a call to action for peace through the universal language of the body, dance.  Learn more here.

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