Early Sunday morning, I sat down to write my column. As I typed “September,” the computer prompted me with the date. September 11, 2005. My stomach dropped. I hadn't remembered. But all of a sudden, there it was, staring me in the face, hovering over the otherwise blank page.
In a flash, it all came back to me. I could barely sleep for the flood of memories. I realized how long it had been since I'd thought of 9/11. Reference to it would pass before me from time to time, but I hadn't remembered it.
Shortly after September 11, news agencies stopped showing the terrifying images of the day. It was too hard. The nation was so shaken that we had to distance ourselves from the sensations so that we didn't languish in grief or explode with fury.
We can neither wallow in that day's overwhelming emotions nor can we forget them.
What do you remember? Do you remember the faces of those desperate onlookers as Dante's Inferno loomed over downtown New York? Do you remember how you felt while you stood helpless, sobbing, while 3,047 people were murdered in front of your eyes?
Who made it real for you? Was it a child holding a candle for her lost father? Was it a man in a suit prostrate on the sidewalk in grief? Was it a fireman who ran up the stairs while everyone else ran down them?
The man who made it real for me was Colonel Richard C. Rescorla. Months later, Dr. Michael Fitzgerald told Rescorla's story and held him up as an example of sheer selfless courage and heroism in his actions on 9/11.
In 1963, while some men ran to Canada to escape the Vietnam draft, Rescorla moved from England to the United States to enlist. In the battle of Ira Drang, while his platoon cowered in foxholes, waiting to be overrun by the enemy, he led his troops in Cornish fight songs to buoy their spirits.
An image of him, gun ready, advancing toward the enemy, graces the cover of 1992's bestseller, "We Were Soldiers Once and Young." This brave warrior was, by the grace of God, placed in a position to use his courage and military discipline to save the lives of innocents in the Twin Towers.
This leader of men was head of security for Morgan Stanley Dean Witter on September 11, 2001 and was responsible for the people on the 44th to the 74th floors of the south tower. When the first plane hit the north tower, the Port Authority advised him to keep everyone at their desks. He replied, "Piss off, you S.O.B. … I'm getting my people the … out of here."
He had predicted an attack on the World Trade Center after the 1993 bombings and had forced the Morgan Stanley employees to run extra fire drills so that they would be prepared. The evacuation was orderly and methodical, even as the plane hit the south tower. Col. Rescorla led his people to safety. His coworkers recount that he never lost his cool or panicked; he was strong and resolute in his purpose. He told them, "Today is a day to be proud to be an American." After the evacuation was successful, he went back in to make a final sweep.
Then, all but six of the 3,700 Morgan Stanley employees watched as the south tower collapsed, taking their hero with it.
Colonel Richard C. Rescorla was 62 years old and suffering from cancer when he saved the lives of those people. While so many ran in sheer terror to safety, he forged ahead to help the helpless. He did not have to go back in for the final sweep; he could have emerged into the sunlight and been hailed a hero. But his devotion to duty and integrity urged him on.
His official cause of death was homicide. Though a man like that was meant to die nobly, he should not have been wiped out by sheer evil. This is the hardest part about September 11 and all wanton destruction of life.
It is something we are forced to face as human beings. In September 2001, the World Trade Center collapsed. In September 2004, 344 civilians were massacred when Chechen rebels took school children hostage in Belsan, Russia. Now, in September 2005, we are beginning to hear fatality statistics from Hurricane Katrina.
When people are taken away from us in such senseless tragedies, what are we to do? Vengeance and anger will not sate our sorrow. We must take the things that these individuals stood for and let them inspire us.
Col. Rescorla embodied perseverance, honor and righteousness. His story should inspire us to face our fears and fight for our convictions. Furthermore, we should strive to emulate his compassion.
So many of the evils in the world result from a lack of compassion. If we allow catastrophes like September 11 to just wash over us without emotion, we risk losing our humanity. This is why we must mourn and remember the victims of evil. Pause for a moment. Be grateful for heroes like Col. Rescorla. Grieve for all of the victims of tragedy. Remember September 11.

— Sarah Pevey is a senior in Political Science. For more information on her column, please visit http://web.utk.edu/~spevey/ or email her at spevey@utk.edu.