Thursday, September 11, 2008

The More Things Change

A year ago I wrote a post regarding September 11th, and little has changed in its relevance (save for changing "six years" to "seven"). In fact, things might have gotten worse, especially after Giuliani's presidential run with "noun, verb, 9/11" speeches, the unknown whereabouts of Osama bin Laden, and--most disgusting for me--this "tribute" video from the Republican National Convention. With every passing year a terrible tragedy and a beautiful rebirth get more and more trivialized, marketed, whored out and profiteered with devastating effect. Remember 9/11 today, remember what came out of it in November.

It's been seven years. Wow. Like anyone else, I can ramble through the particulars of the day: pre-litigated Coach Feldman telling us about a plane hitting the World Trade Tower (but still having to teach us about safety while lifting weights); going into Chemistry and watching both towers fall; the crisp, sunny afternoon and how something this terrible isn't allowed to happen on a day this beautiful. I'm sure you've been running through these same scenarios in your mind all day as well. The details still cut with incredible precision, and I doubt they will dull in time.

It's strange how the day has been mutated ever since. It has become a talking point, a fear tactic, a construction plan, a reason for more death, a squabble over a politically correct statue, a tent pole for polity. It's been a while since the tiny American flags were on every car, front door, and overpass. It's been some time since tragedy was transformed into unity, then patriotism and a rallying cry, then belittled as a conspiracy theory, a talking point, a charade. It says something dire about our society that we could so effortlessly and mindlessly turn a negative into a positive and then right back into a negative. The tragedy keeps unfolding.

Seven years. We've all had that weird "has it been seven years already?" moment, where we try and go back and touch the clothes, listen to the music, see the people. We try and put ourselves back into the proper perspective to re-break our hearts. To most of us, seven years in the past is just a marker of where we've been, where we've gone, and what has changed between then and now. What gets lost is what those seven years could mean others. The infant boy whose mother died is now a second-grader. The sixth-grader who has to cope with the loss of her father is starting college. A wife has to spend what was to be her 25th wedding anniversary alone.

I hate the phrase "never forget." It's common sense; I don't have to be reminded to remember. Far too often we remember Tower Two getting hit, the awful long shot of both Towers in line with each other, a plane coming from the right, a dreadful pause, then the blow out of fire, smoke, debris and flesh from the left side. We think of terrorism, and we fill our hearts with hate.

Tonight, remember the people who were working a boring job to pay the mortgage, or to get their kid through school, or because that's what their parents always wanted her to be, only to be killed. Remember the kids who, in a flash, had to traverse an infinitely more difficult road through life than we can imagine. Remember the firefighters and police who held the badge and their duty over their own lives. Don't think about the conspiracy, the wars that have come forth, the fear that we're constantly reminded of and held down because of. Remember the victims, remember the heroes, and remember the families of both.