My mother once wrote me a letter dated December 7th and below the date she wrote “I remember Pearl Harbor.” And it is important to remember those tragic moments in history so that we may learn from them, heal together, and never repeat them. I get that. But.
I strongly suspect that I will dread this day every year for the rest of my life. As we are all quite painfully aware, it’s the day that the world changed. Or better stated, it’s the day that those elements in the world who hate us finally got our attention. I will never forget how I felt, standing in my living room in a state of shock, glued to the television, watching people jumping out of windows to their deaths. It’s a sick and helpless feeling, made that much worse because you know it will forever be a part of your history.
I’ll never forget the fear that permeated the atmosphere for months afterward, and how the poorly focused hatred still lingers. I’ll never forget the rigid and war-like patriotism, and how people would look at you suspiciously if you did not have an American flag on your lapel or hanging from your front porch.
There’s enormous pressure in times of hyper-patriotism. If you’re not with us, then you must be against us. I have never liked situations where there has to be an “us”, because that means someone is forced to be a “them”, and things can so quickly get out of control. I won’t even root for a particular sports team for that reason.
So here we are on the biggest “us” day of the year. And if I did have the blessed relief of forgetting, even for a little while, I can always count on this anniversary to roll around every single year to remind me. I try not to turn on the television on this day. I don’t want to see those images of the planes hitting the towers ever again.
We are lead to believe that to shift our focus would be to dishonor the 2,996 people who lost their lives that day. I disagree. I did not know any of those people personally, but I can’t imagine that if I lost anyone that I loved due to a tragedy, that they’d want me to obsess over the tragedy. Rather, I think they’d want me to focus on their lives and what they meant to me. None of these people deserve to “become” 9/11. They were so much more than that to the people who loved them.
So please don’t talk to me about 9/11, and I’ll make an effort to avoid the media frenzy as well.
I hereby pledge to honor the fallen not by dwelling on 9/11, but by appreciating what I have, and by taking a moment to be thankful for the fact that I get to stand here and breathe this air and feel the sunlight on my face.
I’ll remember the lives that were lost not by living in a constant state of paranoia and xenophobia, but by realizing how precious life and freedom and basic human rights are, and how lucky I am to have them. And I’ll do my best to do that every single day, not just today.
When all is said and done, I suspect that there could be no better memorial than that.
(Image by Moira Schlobohm – Google +)