Every year around this time I have to ask my husband at least ten times to please change the channel. I just can’t bear the footage from that horrible day… I can’t believe it’s been eleven years. I recently told a coworker this fact- that I just can’t stomach watching those towers fall over and over against amidst black smoke, sirens, and terrified screams and shouts. I can’t sit and listen to people give their accounts of their last phone calls from their loved ones as a plane went down over a field… I can’t do it. She responded that it was necessary for us to see those things to be reminded of how awful it really was- that we might forget if we don’t see it. Maybe that works for some people. In fact, I know it does. My brother in-law, a fireman, wrote an essay regarding exactly this topic earlier today. He mentioned that he had art placed at the firehouse so that he could see it every single time he walked out of his office. That’s how he remembers. That’s how a lot of people need to remember.
I guess I’m on the opposite end. I don’t need to see it to remember. I don’t need to be reminded in order to recall how I felt that day and in the weeks immediately following. The feeling of my insides being turned to heavy stone and my face being dry and puffy from tears… It’s the same way I feel today and any time I reflect on those events. It’s this strange mix of absolute terror, pride, sadness, anger, and denial. But now, eleven short years later, there’s a new emotion that has begun to surface: joy.
It seems there has been a lot of talk this year about “forgetting.” That maybe we’ve already begun to let the memory of those lost lives fade from our hearts and minds. That somehow it just doesn’t have the same sting as it used to.
I’m forced to disagree.
For those of us that were alive on September 11, 2001, we will never- ever- forget. How could we? You don’t just leave behind that kind of pain. You remember. But maybe you begin to stitch it back together. Maybe you find a way each day to pick yourself up and continue to live, and maybe somehow you find that joy is possible again. Maybe you take that remembrance and you do something with it.
Maybe now that we’ve cleared the rubble, and built monuments, and said speeches, and made art, and written poetry and essay after essay after essay, and seen lives lived not in absence of pain, but through it…maybe we’re starting to feel peace again. And maybe… just maybe... that remembrance has begun to take a different form. It still causes our voices to catch, our eyes to water, our hearts to speed up, and our bodies to go numb, but there’s something else there.
It’s not forgetting that we’re doing. It’s healing. It’s rebuilding. It’s regaining hope and faith… and joy. It’s possible. And we’re doing it. And we will never forget how it felt to have the absence of joy…