THERE’S A REASON WHY WE READ THE NAMES OF THE 9/11 VICTIMS EVERY YEAR.
Nearly 3,000 people died that day in 2001. But 3,000 means nothing — it’s just a number, far too big to comprehend. It’s a data point, a historical statistic, a question on a multiple-choice test.
3,000 doesn’t have a face or a family. But Michael Armstrong does. So do Patricia Fagan, Alan Kleinberg, Manuel Lopez and Angela Rosario. These are just a fraction of the people behind that number, the individuals who left behind timeless ripples of sorrow and loss.
The 9/11 attacks were big. But remembering the people makes it small — not small in its impact, but small so that we can understand it at a human level.
The same goes for cities, towns, communities. Murder statistics are just that, statistics. They don’t have faces or names. They don’t concern us because they are not human. We may worry about them at a subconscious level, but they are too big for us to have any real impact on our daily lives.
Until the number gets a name.
Until a county of more than 3 million is reduced to one bleeding man on a quiet neighborhood sidewalk. In a place where “that doesn’t happen here.”
Until you hear the name and realize you knew him — not personally, but you know the name and the family, you know the daughter who played volleyball with your own kid. You hear the name and you feel it register in the back of your brain, a pinprick of confusion and recognition, and you feel a sense of loss despite being so far removed.
Because murder, anyone’s murder, makes us small. It connects us and brings us together whether we want to or not. Because names matter.
Names like Herman Sandler and Jennifer Tino, like Yvette Moreno and Steve Morris, and all the other names entombed on the 9/11 Memorial.
And names like David Nakaki, a 62-year-old father who went for a walk on a quiet street in a quiet suburban neighborhood in a quiet slice of picture-perfect Orange County, and never made it back home.