Another anniversary of late summer remembrance and sky blue conversations. Another year of promises never to forget. Another solemn reading of those three thousand names; names slowly fading in resonance next to the names of the Newtown children, the Boston marathon victims, the countless others whose names we have never heard, the ones who are only afforded ink in a police blotter, whose faces have never made it onto television channels or newspaper headlines. The ones whose names we will never know of because they live across oceans, across continental divides, across worlds.
September 11. New York City. My city. The city of a million separate stories, but one of those stories was always mine. I used to avoid the films and the television specials. I used to avoid the memorials and the telethons. I used to avoid the E train. I used to avoid downtown. I used to avoid the footprint, the hole, the void. I could not close my eyes against the famous photograph of someone falling into nothingness. I used to think, enough. We should not dwell on or cocoon ourselves in maudlin memories. We should move forward, move on. But as I move farther from that sky blue day, both geographically and chronologically, I have had a change of heart.
We should not forget the lives that were lost that day. We should not forget the loss of a way of life, regardless of whether it was naive or hedonistic or lived in coils of bubble wrap. We should not forget the way the sun shone off the steel of those towers. We should not forget the smell of burning fuel or the feel of scorched paper and ash that rained down for nights and days and nights again. We should not forget the plumes of smoke that rose into the air, searching for some God to make sense or the tiny echoed plumes of a hundred thousand candles lit in lieu of prayer or lament. We should not forget the faces of the missing, strung upon walls and barriers, hastily glued and plastered. We should not forget.
Yes. This is an American thing. But even more, September 11th is a New York thing. And I am, above all else, a New York girl. I have not forgotten. I remember. I remember that we New Yorkers, infamous for keeping to ourselves, spoke to one another deep in the bowels of the subway tunnels in those late September days, on city streets and in hallways and office corridors and waiting in line for coffee. I remember how we gave of ourselves, our time and money and blood. I remember walking in the shadow of the missing. I remember the bells tolling, not needing to ask for whom they tolled because they tolled for an entire city, a nation, a past. We should remember.
I do not remember to fuel an anger toward a stranger in a strange land. I do not remember so that there will be a scapegoat to blame, a donkey to pin a tail on, an easy target. I do not remember so that we can justify (or not) boots on the ground and drones in the sky. I do not remember for any of those reasons. I remember because as time goes by and memories fade it is important to take a moment to reflect and to look forward. To make a notation in the history books. Like anything that has a profound affect on a soul, a city, a nation, you need a rubber band snap every now and again to remind you.
We have moved forward. By September 12, 2001 we had already begun. Through the stench of the tragedy, through the sifting of steel, through a cloud of disbelief and discordance, the city moved forward. But the need is still there. The need for questioning and reasoning and the need to look deep within, the need so summon the strength to keep going, not just along the same path as before, but to forge a new and better road forward.
And that in and of itself, is a reason to remember.