I always find it hard to be witty or to complain about the minor annoyances of my life on the anniversary of September 11. My creative juices dry up and all I want to do is allow myself to be solemn.
This is the post I wrote last year for the anniversary. I've edited it a little, but reading over it this morning, I think my sentiments expressed here are even stronger this year than last. Are we ever more divided than we are in a presidential election year? Especially a year when a debate about lipstick tops the news instead of where these people stand on the issues of our country that so desperately need someone's attention?
Anyway, here are my thoughts on this most solemn day.
Time heals everything
But I'm still waiting.
--"Not Ready to Make Nice", The Dixie Chicks
We all remember where we were on this day 7 years ago. We know what we were doing the moment we heard, the moment we realized it was no accident. It was a day that united anyone old enough to watch, to listen, to mourn. We came together in our schools, our offices, our homes, to comfort each other and lean on each other. Regardless of whether or not we lost someone that day, we cried as we watched the endlessly repeating scene of planes, of bursts of flame, of people jumping from towers in an attempt to escape the hell inside, of buildings falling and covering an entire city with ashes and dust.
Seven years have passed, and unless you lost someone that day, I imagine you didn't become aware of today's significance until you wrote the date on a check, or switched on your TV or radio and heard a broadcaster mention a memorial or moment of silence. We shouldn't feel bad about that; as time passes, and the wounds begin to heal, it will become easier to forget between the major milestones of 5 years, 10 years, and 20 years. It will become easier to see September 11 as another day on the calendar; a day like any other, in which we focus on our little bubbles of family and work and forget how, one gorgeous Tuesday morning in 2001, we all came together as Americans, united in grief and shock and anger.
Writing this post, though, I find myself getting bitter. Like the Dixie Chicks so rightly say (love 'em or loathe 'em, you gotta admit they wrote a good song), I'm still waiting.
I'm still waiting for an end to the sorrow I feel every time I see the towers fall.
I'm still waiting for an end to the terror that I feel every time a loved one gets on an airplane.
I'm still waiting to feel some sense of finality, some sense of justice, that the perpetrator of this act has been found and brought to swift justice.
I'm still waiting for a day when the only videos or pictures released by the devil who did this are posthumous.
I am also waiting to once again feel that sense of unity that came in the months after the attacks. In our collective mourning, we came together as a nation for the first time in my short life. I would hate to think that that will be the only time in my lifetime that both sides of the aisle agree on someting. That that will be the only time we put aside differences of wealth, race, religion, and cultural values and stand up as one people.
I remember how so many of us raced to buy American flags to hang on our porches in the weeks after the attack. Nearly every house, apartment, and business flew a flag proudly that fall. Many people made banners and displayed these in front of their homes, as well. Some were sad, some showed support for the victims' families, and some were angry. I remember the night we were all asked to light a candle outside our homes in remembrance, and I can still see the tiny lights flickering on my neighbor's porches. I remember the moments of silence at the one week, one month, and one year anniversaries. I remember the wedding in Atlanta some friends and I went to that October, and how we bought small flags to stick in our car windows for the ride back home and how so many cars on the road were sporting the same. We were nicer to each other for a short time; people greeted each other, made eye contact, and sincerely asked, "How are you doing?" to complete strangers.
So soon after this, we became more divided than ever. We were reminded by pundits and political candidates of the harsh divisions between us: liberal vs. conservative, religious vs. humanist, gay vs. straight. Pretty soon even those most closely affected by this tragedy started arguing over how best to memorialize the victims and seek retribution.
Every time I go to a funeral, someone in the family says, "It's a shame that it took something like this to bring us all together."
It's a shame that it took a tragedy on the scale of 9/11/01 to bring together our nation.
And an even bigger shame that a mere seven years later, we are more divided than ever.