Fifteen years after the attacks of Sept. 11, the wounds lie not far below the surface. We may not mark each anniversary with as much ceremony as we once did. We may encounter the quotidian legacies of the attacks — longer security lines at airports, primarily — without so much as a passing thought about their origin. Even the War on Terror has evolved so far from its genesis and has been shaped so profoundly by subsequent events that it no longer conjures immediate thoughts of 9/11. But a small thing in a quiet moment — a cloudless blue September sky, a glimpse of the Twin Towers in an old movie — can still bring back the flood of fear, sadness and uncertainty that we have never resolved, perhaps can never resolve.
So profoundly visceral are those memories, even at the remove of a decade and a half, that it is hard for many of us to comprehend the enduring pain of those who lost family members in the attacks. Sept. 11 was a national tragedy, but for the relatives of the nearly 3,000 people who were killed that day, it is a profoundly personal one. We lost an innocence, a sense of security. They lost mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters.
The void left by their absence grows year by year. Dana Falkenberg was the youngest Marylander killed that day. She was traveling with her father, Charles, big sister, Zoe, and mother, Leslie Whittington, from Dulles to Los Angeles, on their way to Australia, where her mother, a Georgetown professor, would be teaching for two months. Their plane, American Airlines Flight 77, crashed into the Pentagon, killing all 59 people aboard and 125 on the ground. Dana would be 18 today. Who would she be? Wayne T. Davis, an Army veteran who had gotten a college degree from the University of Maryland just days earlier, was in Windows on the World, the famed restaurant atop the World Trade Center's north tower, for a work meeting when American Airlines Flight 11 struck the building. He left behind three children, including a 2-year-old daughter and 8-month-old boy. How might he have shaped their lives?