When the planes hit on 9.11, we were all some place with someone. I was in a 10th grade English class going to a 9th grade English class. I was 30 years old. I will always remember where I was since I will never be the same, nor will my family, neighbors, friends, co-workers, students, and random passers-by at the time. That day, 9.11 changed all of us. Even if we wanted to be the same, we were now new people in a new world.
Everything before that day is 9.10. It's a moment of innocence. It's Gary Condit's political crisis and a lot of news that doesn't matter in comparison to the next day's news.
Everything on 9.11 is just shock and sadness. It's an outpouring of unstoppable emotion.
As for 9.12, that's a day of anger, confusion, and imminent change. Who we were versus who we are versus what happens next. It didn't take long for the roadside t-shirt sales places with pictures of patriotic images and death calls for Bin Laden to go up. Looking at it now, in this partisan world, it seems absurd, but at that time, it was a way to work through the Kubler-Ross stages of death.
The moment is the denial of what our eyes see. The next day is anger. The next 3 stages are bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
The stages of this process is who we became as we moved toward October 7th, when America went into Afghanistan. Then came Iraq and the debates to go or not go. I remember reading how John McCain supported the Surge because it was a cause that would cost too much to lose. Here, I agree with the support of that. What happens if we give up? Lose? Don't fight until some real moment of "mission accomplished?" I'm not smart enough to answer that, but 17 years after 9.11, so much of that day is still so real and it's still so scary.
THAT SAID, let us temporarily forget that, though, and think of those who died and fought to save America and Americans on that day and all those days after it. They are the heroes and casualties of this day 17 years ago.
One of my favorite singers, Jeff Tweedy of Wilco was with his young son Spencer on the morning of 9.11. Instead of taking the buildings, planes, and death all in at that moment, he chose to play with slot cars with a 6-year old kid. There'd be enough time for the other stuff later. It was a beautiful father / son moment, with the wisdom of age knowing "sort of" what's next and a kid who needs to be sheltered from what he will never truly fathom. Then again, how can any of us make sense of that terrorist act / mass murder?
This temporary coping action reminds me of an Asian movie I watched in 1994. Chow Yun Fat and John Woo made Asian action films awesome, so I went to watch this movie, whose name I can't remember. The point was that there were all of these gangsters holed up in a safe house. Essentially, they were waiting to be killed. Instead of being sad, they played games and lived life with happiness and laughter. Wanting a solid action movie, it didn't make sense to me then, but thinking about it today, there is something in it that speaks of mindsets, which makes sense.
How many people, on either side, are still fighting that war? What will stop the engines and just let us be a people again? I'm not saying to naively stop fighting or staying on guard, but why does either side want this war without end anymore? With the White House even making themselves ready to negotiate with the Taliban, the question hovers for all of us.
One of my favorite journals to have students write was "Where Were You on 9.11?" Today, it's fair to say that a good deal of freshman college students have no memory of the day since they were in the womb or in diapers. A larger part of the population has no memory of the date anymore.
Alan Jackson "Where Were You When the World Stopped?"
Even those of us who were there and affected with tears and anger find our memories growing hazy. It's something about the mind's coping mechanism. Really. It's called the Trace Decay Theory of Forgetting.
Additionally, I would say that if you aren't at least 25 (maybe younger, most likely older), you have no memory of the day. At our early ages, we don't have the power to remember completely, knowledgeably, and eternally, let alone process what happened on that day. If I think of my earliest memories, they're remembrances of memories. For instance, I remember Star Wars commercials before the movie in 1977. I know what I think they were, but were they?
If you were at a school like the one I taught at that day, your television was ordered off after about 10 minutes, if it came on at all. I remember watching a building falling. This would have been the South Tower. About a half hour later, the North Tower fell.
Today, I have no interest in watching that replayed. I don't want to see people jump to their deaths or think about box cutters. I don't want to rewatch The Path to 9.11 either (I thought about it, but politics are depressing me something fierce, so no... I'm also holding off on the Woodward book to focus on my own books and the one to come).
If I want to cry, I just watch the following video from 2:48. A very well done documentary that features the daughter of a 9.11 pilot and how the Yankees (especially Derek Jeter) helped her cope with her father's death. And yes, I did watch that, and I cried my tears for all of these memories.
At some point, we all have to cope. It may not be pretty or preferred, but we have to do this to go on living. Wilma Derksen is featured in Malcolm Gladwell's David and Goliath for discussing how she came to accept her daughter's abduction and murder. It's a story that sends chills. Somehow, they forgive the killer / rapist in order to save themselves. Their story speaks for everyone suffering an unspeakable atrocity.
This doesn't mean that some form of punishment / retaliation isn't necessary. Even St. Augustine recognized the need for a JUST WAR. It just means that at some point, our meaning of the day will change, and enough will have to be enough. We saw this even in World War 2.
Students of history, like me, will still remember Pearl Harbor, D-Day, Kennedy's assassination and other events that we weren't there for. We'll think of what they meant. Being a Northerner, I don't remember when South Carolina seceded (December 20, 1860, it turns out). I don't remember when the shot was heard round the world.
Nevertheless, at some point, all Just and Lost Causes have to reach a point of finality. This doesn't mean to sacrifice our memory of the Just Cause's reasoning and necessities, but rather that we have to realign how we handle situations in the now to not sacrifice the present and future.
I used to believe this day should be a national day of mourning, but I'm not sure what I'm thinking today other than I watched the baseball video above long enough to cry. I wrote this. When I'm done, I'll look at today's other news, eat, and write my book.
However, just like many of you, I'll think about what I should never forget since we're still smack dab in the middle of so much of a never ending war on terror that would come with this heinous act inflicted on innocent American lives (as Bush told us we would be). I know that now is not the time to stop remembering, but I'm thinking about adjusting how I remember.
That said, historically...
9.11 Fast Facts
Deaths in the military since 9.11
Cost of the War on Terror
Benghazi by the numbers
The men responsible for the Innocence of Muslims video - tied to Benghazi, though Al Qaeda used it as cover to attack
Things to Remember about 9.11
9.11 effects on stock market
9.11 Effects on Airline Industry
Terrorism in America since 9.11
Al Qaeda attack on Britain
Ryan Adams "New York, New York"
At the end of the day, my friend Karen posted this, so I'm using it here. I think it says a lot.
Seventeen years ago tonight, thousands of people in this country went to bed with their loved ones for the last time. Some were excited, looking forward to the trip they’d be taking in the morning. Others were perhaps dreading the usual commute to work. How many of them were rushed the following morning? How many didn’t make time to kiss their kids or their spouses? They mumbled a quick goodbye and headed out the door…not knowing it would be the last time they’d see their loved ones.
Tomorrow is promised to no one. Take nothing and no one for granted. Tell him or her that you love them. Forget the diet and eat the cookie. Make love. Stay up late. Apologize, even if it wasn’t entirely your fault. Forgive, even if they don’t know what they did was wrong. Laugh. Cry. Scream. Go for a walk. Find shapes in the clouds. Do something nice for someone. Let someone do something nice for you. Stop waiting for things to happen. Get off your ass and enjoy life. While you’re at it, help someone else enjoy their life as well. ~Jim Cobb
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