Editorial: Maintaining History

Editorial: Maintaining History

As we approached the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, a rather common observation was made: An entire generation of young people, many college-aged or soon-to-be, have no direct memory of the events of that fateful September day.

In fact, as The Herald recounts in today’s paper, Cheshire Academy dedicated significant time and effort this week to educating their students about not only the attacks themselves, but also the impact of 9/11 and what transpired afterward. For the students, Sept. 11, 2001, has been and will remain simply a day to be studied, rather than a lived experience to be remembered.

That, of course, is the nature of history.  Some can still recall where they were when news of the attack on Pearl Harbor was announced. Many others recall with great clarity what they were doing the exact moment they learned that President John F. Kennedy had been shot and killed. For millions, however, such historical happenings are objects of academic interest rather than life-altering events.

That’s why it should come as welcomed news that, once again, Cheshire will play host to “The Wall That Heals,” a miniaturized version of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. The traveling display, originally showcased in Cheshire back in 2007, allows those who have never had the chance to visit the D.C. memorial an opportunity to experience the powerful impact the wall makes on all who visit it, while connecting to the names that are inscribed on its gleaming back surface.

And while the wall’s arrival in Cheshire, planned for next spring, would be an important moment no matter who served as organizer, there is something special about that fact that it is an 18-year-old who has taken the initiative and is spearheading it all.

It likely isn’t a surprise that Hayley Falk, founder of the Because of the Brave organization, is the one organizing this endeavor. Coming from a military family, and a grandfather who served in Vietnam, it makes sense that she would be the one looking to keep the memory of all those who died during the war alive.

But it’s not just Falk. Cheshire has a laudable legacy of students taking the reins when it comes to events honoring military service and historical moments. Going all the way back to the first visit from “The Wall That Heals,” it was Cheshire High School students who helped make the whole thing a possibility.

History is only maintained if each new generation commits to maintaining it. The fields at Gettysburg would be unidentifiable hills if generations of Americans, born decades, even a century, after the Civil War had ceased, did not dedicate themselves to preserving it. Independence Hall in Philadelphia attracts thousands of visitors per year, precisely because Americans have decided to remember and honor what took place in that building more than 200 years ago.

The Vietnam War ended in April of 1975. That means anyone under the age of 46 would not have born before the conflict concluded. Anyone under 50 years of age likely has no real memory of what it was like to be alive when the war was raging, or how much the conflict impacted the lives of those back home in the U.S.

Now more than ever, we need to ensure that the generations of today remember what happened during that period of American history and pay tribute to the men and women who served in that controversial war. It’s why “The Wall That Heals” return is so important. It will be an event, one complete with a lot of fanfare, that will communicate the importance of that time in a way words on a page just simply cannot.

We may yet be months away from the wall’s official arrival, but that doesn’t mean we can’t acknowledge the impact it will likely have on Cheshire once it has departed. A generation of residents who were there 14 years ago can attest to that.

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