Backwards Glances

It's been a busy, bad week, so I'm a little behind on this post (I'd started it, but got interrupted). Anyway, distance can lend some perspective, right?

This past week saw the first September 11 that fell on a Tuesday since thatTuesday, September 11. Once again, families of the people that died that day gathered around Ground Zero/The Pit/the World Trade Center site to grieve, publicly. Once again, schools observed a moment of silence to honor/mourn those that (literally) fell.

I'm not against grieving, but there's a part of me that feels that this is too ostentatious. We can only observe in this way, at this time. Done with Mirrors pointed out this brave post, questioning some of the same things that I've been questioning (as always, in much better language and more thoughtfully than I could articulate).

One point (of many) that struck at chord
But I worry about what we're doing with this day. It's being called Patriot's Day by some, celebrated with national songs, speeches, and red, white, and blue bunting.
I'm from Massachusetts. We already have a Patriot's Day, and it has nothing to do with the football team. The unfortunate victims of September 11 were not patriots. They did nothing except die in a horrific fashion, some by accident of being at their desks as per usual, some by rushing in bravely to try to help those trapped. That's not patriotism.

I also wonder about the health aspect. For several days after the 11th, at MOPOW, many students were shocked and in grief. However, the next week - merely six/seven days later - they were starting to wonder about when it would be ok for them to worry about their lives. When it would ok to think about getting into college, or passing an exam, or getting a job, or their love lives. Was a week too soon? Two weeks? Several months? Every year now, we'll force the younger generation to stop and ponder a tragedy. Is this healthy?

And what about people like Thing One? He was getting out of the subway, right under the WTC, when Plane One hit. He was on the street and could feel the heat and the impact when Plane Two hit. He saw bodies falling from windows. He was locked into his office when they thought the Stock Exchange had been hit. He breathed all that dust and all those fumes, walked across the Brooklyn Bridge to our apartment. His office overlooked The Pit. It still does. Does he need to remember this day? Do we need to make him, his colleagues relive those horrible hours?

Short answer: no.


Aravis said...

I thought about you and Thing One that day. I remember what you've shared about the impact it had for you personally.

There seems to be two movements around this date: those who demand that it be mourned with an outpouring of grief and reminiscences, and those who don't want to forget, but who don't want life to stop because of it anymore. Perhaps I'm not describing these groups correctly, but hopefully you understand what I'm getting at. I tend to be a member of the latter group. It's not something we're ever going to forget- think JFK assassination- and it's something that will always be taught to our children as a major event in history. But I don't think we need to beat ourselves up into a fury of grief and anger every year, to traumatize ourselves or our children all over again.

To live in fear and hatred and grief means that those who committed those acts of terrorism have won.

For me, I'll remember and feel sad for all of those who lost their lives, but my life will go on.

Oh dear, now I sound like Celine Dion.

Anonymous said...

I agree wholeheartedly that turning "Sept. 11" into a "Patriot's Day" mischaracterizes the event and those involved. I also happen to think patriotism is a dangerous thing and "patriot" a dubious distinction, but that's another matter. ;-)

Six years isn't that long, so I'm not upset about the ostentatious ceremonies yet. But will we still be reading every name after 10 years? Should we? And how much of what we do to glorify the victims is just a surrogate activity for what we really wish we could do (but can't, because of the nature of the thing): "combat" terrorism?

So, yes, I think the time will come-- soon-- to let it go, but I'm not sure the statute of limitations has quite run out. And I'd hate to be in the shoes of the public official who first proposes that we "do something different this year."

OTOH, I have a (non-US) friend who thinks Americans should have regarded the whole thing as a natural disaster, like an earthquake or a flood, and just cleaned up and moved on immediately (like the sweeper-upper at a crime scene: "Move along, folks; nothing to see here"). He's wrong, too.