Never forget. That’s the mantra from sun-up to sun-down on this September 11th, “celebrated” every year. Everywhere on my Twitter feed, on my Facebook feed: the images of buildings on fire; of sand storm New York City streets; of a skyline that less and less of us recognize as changed.
History is receding from us as our universe expands – not simply does the distance between you and 911 change, but the distance between it and Pearl Harbor, too. Events twice as far away recede from our view at twice the rate, all of it unreachable no matter how hard you try.
What do we lose if we let go of things we can’t hold, anyway? I know Hitler did wrong, having never lived through the Holocaust. I know slavery was wrong, having never been a slave. Based on what I see, what we seem to want to hold onto is the pain. Tributes and memes and links and tweets and posts and blogs and images and hashtags. All seem to ask me to hold onto the surreal, hallucinogenic fear of that moment, staring at an attack less than an hour by plane from Ginna that just took down two of the most iconic buildings in my state. And the Pentagon.
Does that sound like a good idea? Would any shrink – anywhere – recommend that you live the grinding horror of that day annually? It seems instead to be a call to revanchism. To a perpetual feeling of loss and a need for redemption. Redemption that cannot ever come. Instead of appealing to our desire for peace, so much of what I see on 911 is almost fetish-like grinding of our still-open wounds.
We make a lot of fun of ourselves every year because we celebrate Memorial Day and Labor Day and Independence Day with such frivolities as hamburgers, beer and football. Which is proof enough that no, we have not forgotten the meaning of those days. We celebrate Thanksgiving with turkey, beer and football. Christmas? Ham, wine and football.
Meat, booze and sports are how Americans pay tribute to the things that matter to us. It’s impossible not to laugh at, and would you have it any other way? And September just happens to be the hands-down best time for all of these things. I’m not just saying that because September is my birth month. But it helps.
While people remain in our politics like Rudy Giuliani and others who wrap themselves in the death shrouds of 911, whether or not they were there, I suppose there will be no turning to those days. Not easily, anyways. But I for one welcome the slowly-cooling crispy skin of a hot dog, eaten under the same beautiful cerulean skies that greeted me the day so much of our world changed. Skies like that only happen in September. I can be satisfied with chasing my kid around the property while friends and family pass in and out of my porch door, busy getting lunch ready. I can be very happy that this day is not That Day.
And I won’t forget, I promise.