Dr. Douglas Skopp speaking at Plattsburgh State’s annual 911 commemoration.
PLATTSBURGH — The terror on America’s doorstep 11 years ago dismayed the nation.
Everyone desires to see the injustice undone, but that cannot happen, and today we must find our way toward compassion and wisdom, said Plattsburgh State historian Dr. Douglas Skopp, speaking at the university’s annual 911 commemoration.
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, 19 Islamist militants hijacked four passenger jets to complete four coordinated suicide attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C.
They smashed two planes, American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175, into the World Trade Center. The North and South towers collapsed within two hours.
The hijackers crashed American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon.
The fourth jet was heading toward the United States Capital building when passengers attempted to take control of United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Nearly 3,000 people lost their lives that day.
Students, faculty, administrators, staff and community members gathered near Hawkins pond to commemorate those lost that day and honor the courage of those who rushed to their aid.
Skopp said those gathered must dedicate themselves to the resolve to “look more deeply into our hearts and minds as we struggle to blend justice with mercy and compassion.”
Hope rests in remembering what happened and learning with open hearts and minds, in the hope of finding compassion and the calm of wisdom, Skopp said.
“We all have a responsibility to do whatever we must, in order to make a future worthy of those we have lost.”
Skopp reminded those present of the courage and expressions of “godlike” expressions of human spirit that rose from the tragedy.
He also stressed that history is the mirror reflecting our present and foreshadowing our future.
Yes, the past is littered with shards of anger and the rubble of revenge, the ruins of which continue to tumble down upon us.
History shows how easily mankind is bloodied by its own hatred, becoming its own enemy and terror.
But there is another history too, Skopp said, a shining history of human compassion, creativity, love and wisdom, written brightly over the ages.
“If we are honest, in the mirror that is our past we can see both our human-kinds.”
Studying the attacks and retaining faith in order and meaning may be tragic, but not doing it is the greater tragedy, the historian said, standing a few feet from the 911 memorial, the pond’s fountains reaching toward the sky behind him.
Skopp urged people to clear their minds and seek understanding rather than jumping to conclusions that heap blame and “plunge us toward hasty judgment in the aftermath of such cruelty and calamity. Seeking truth means understanding what those we may despise have to say, something that requires strength.”
“Ultimately,” Skopp said, “we might have done something to fuel the hate, and while harm to innocents is never acceptable, we must recognize our adversaries despair.”
“I mean, should we not have seen the consequences of our policies and practices in the Middle East and elsewhere, how we had turned a blind eye to tyranny for the sake of our material ‘needs’?”
In the end, Skopp said, our wisdom must establish an ethically just world in which everyone enjoys the respect and opportunities “we would want for ourselves.”