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The date 9/11 lives in infamy. But will it fade?

Chicago Tribune

Wednesday, September 11, 2019  |  Article  |  Eric Zorn

911 (94)

Last week I made an appointment for this afternoon, and when I went to enter it in my calendar, I felt a twinge, a shudder of recognition at the date itself, Sept. 11.


Oh that day. Again. A quick flash on my memories from that day. I moved on.


Only two other non-holiday, non-family-related dates give me that kind of jolt of awareness simply to see them written down: Dec. 7 and Nov. 22 — Pearl Harbor Day (1941) and the assassination of John F. Kennedy (1963).


There are arguably more pivotal, more consequential dates in American history. Consider:


April 12

April 14

Oct. 29

June 6

Aug. 6

April 4

July 20

Now, before you glance down and see the events correlated with these dates, tell me honestly, how many do you recognize instantly? Not how many can you figure out after thinking about it for a moment, but how many cause you to do even the slightest double-take when they come around each year?


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In my case, the answer is zero, but your memory may be sharper. Anyway, here are the answers:


April 12: Beginning of the Civil War in 1861

April 14: Assassination of Abraham Lincoln in 1865

Oct. 29: “Black Friday” stock market crash that ushered in the Great Depression in 1929

June 6: D-Day, 1944

Aug. 6: Dropping of the first atomic bomb on Japan in 1945

April 4: Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968

July 20: Humans walk on the moon in 1969

I tossed out this topic on Facebook and received a few other nominees that I would argue are not spots on the calendar that truly resonate with a lot of people:


Feb. 9: The Beatles play the “Ed Sullivan Show” in 1964

Aug. 9: Richard Nixon resigns the presidency in 1974

Dec. 8: John Lennon is murdered in 1980

Jan. 28: Space shuttle Challenger explodes in 1986

Nov. 9: Berlin Wall falls in 1989

Nov. 8: Donald Trump elected president in 2016

My conclusion is that for Americans now alive, 9/11 outranks all others as the date that most lives in infamy. Time is likely to change that — hopefully not with an even more cataclysmic terrorist attack on our shores, but with the same gentle erosion of time that has turned April 6 and Nov. 11 into simply squares on the calendar (they are, respectively, the date we declared war on Germany in 1914, thus entering World War I, and the date Germany surrendered, effectively ending that war in 1918.)