Last week was yet another anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack. I dread the coming of this day every year.
For many years, I hated the 9/11 remembrances and hearing the “where were you” stories. I didn’t want to be reminded of the tragedy. To reignite the fear I felt running from the Capitol Building. To reload the mind’s film reel of the planes flying into the World Trade Center, people covered in ash running through the streets of Manhattan, and the bodies falling from the Twin Towers.
I began to believe the demonstrations and remembrances were self-serving or promotional, almost braggadocio. Particularly when many were stories similar to mine and simply involved running away from the threat, not towards those in need. I believed there were some who deserve to tell their stories. Others should just remain quiet, I thought.
There have been so many days I have wanted to forget about that day. Erase it from memory and go on with life as if it never happened. No need for analysis. I get it. This desire is simply a perverse way of manufacturing an illusion that the attack never took place.
As time passed, I realized the recognition of the anniversary served a function. I came to understand that the telling of personal stories served as catharsis. The power of narrative connected people to one another. Reminded us that all of us felt the rush of the fear of death that day, whether we were in New York or Washington or Idaho or Alaska.
This anniversary grabs us by the lapels, shakes us to wake us – a reminder to never forget. Never forget that there is and always has been a consistent threat against the freedoms and lifestyle we have created and cherish. The attack showed us we are not insulated from the depravity and hatred that many parts of the world face daily. Like a shot of adrenaline, it stimulates our awareness.
Remembering makes certain that we never forget that fellow human beings—innocents—were murdered. A remembering not to conjure anger but to inspire caring. Caring for the families left with empty chairs at their dinner tables and holes in their hearts.
I never remember that it is 9/11 until it is September 11. I don’t want to submit to the anger and sadness and horror that bubbles up whenever I recall that Tuesday in 2001. But 13 years matures an individual. Avoiding those emotions won’t create a pre-9/11 world. Feeling them again does allow for reflection and acknowledgment and a connection to others. Especially those no longer with us.