For a Day, Let’s Remember it For What it Was, Not What It’s Become

There are many events around Seattle today marking the 5-year anniversary of Sept 11. The PI has posted a nice link (below). Perusing the options, which range from solemn reflections to anti-administration / Iraq protests, I got to thinking: There’s what 9/11 was, and what it’s become, and they’re not the same…

I don’t suppose anyone woke up today without knowing the date. It’s been a number, a slogan, a campaign, for five years now. It seems like every single day, the phrase “nine-eleven” finds its way into my ears. Whenever I see a clock with that time, I remember. It is impossible to forget because, the cynics would say (myself heartily included), that we have not been allowed to forget, because the original tragedy has been perverted into an excuse and a rationale that none of us signed up for- 3,000 deaths that have been treated like petition signatures. It is more clear than ever, since 2003, that we live in a society where apology = defeat, and so, on Meet the Press yesterday for example, we were made to understand by Dick Cheney that, regarding Iraq and all: if we had it to do over again we’d do it exactly the same way… Really? That’s great. Makes me feel so much better.

I was in Boston on September 11, teaching a class of first graders when the school nurse popped in to tell me what happened. We struggled for the rest of the day with the idea of how to process it with the kids. Ultimately, we found that it was easier, and harder, than we’d expected. They all knew. They all had opinions. And as young teachers we simply sat there and struggled for explanations and let the kids see the struggle, and I think they understood that, too. On the Friday night after, I followed voices and honking horns down to the center of Davis Square in Somerville, MA, where an unorganized mass of people had gathered to stand around a makeshift memorial of photos, candles, and plastic wreaths- mostly silent, sometimes singing. Man, we even sang America, the Beautiful. Can you possibly imagine gathering with your neighbors to sing a patriotic song today?

Here’s my point:

We were together then. And we all knew exactly why. We understood immediately the human terms of the tragedy we’d all witnessed, we knew too that it suggested a frightening future to come (though frightening in a completely different way than it has actually turned out). The days that followed felt awful, cathartic, hollow, and necessary.

So if there is anything to be done today, I think it’s to try and only connect with that day, that week, of Sept 11, 2001. If at all possible, try to leapfrog back over the bizarro world of the last four years, and get to that one awful time, and try to remember what it was. Try to feel that bottomless sense of loss and love, and see where it takes you… And sure, eventually, it will probably land you right back at “mad as hell” about everything since, but let’s try to save that for next week…

I would suggest this be done with a few friends on rooftops and decks, or the back patio at Dad Watson’s in Fremont. But for organized events, follow this PI link:

The event at St. Marks Cathedral tonight stands out: “St. Mark’s Cathedral on Capitol Hill will host “Moving Forward Together,” an interfaith service that starts at 7 p.m. The service will be “quiet and contemplative,” with chanting, music, prayer and readings from different faiths, organizers said. The event ends with a candle-lighting ceremony.”

1 Comment so far

  1. Steph (unregistered) on September 11th, 2006 @ 9:54 am

    Well said.

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