The Day The Music Died

2124885502_559cafa7f0Another 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.

Because those tributes and light shows and status changes and pauses for remembrance are right.  We should not forget.IMG_4100

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.

15 thoughts on “The Day The Music Died

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    1. Thanks E&M. It’s my one day of maudlin, poetic prose-y wallowing. Oh wait, my birthday too. My second day of maudlin, poetic prose-y wallowing. I woke up yesterday so far away and not remembering. Until I remembered to remember. And then I realized you can’t really ever forget. (I’ve had some Proseco, can you tell by my rambling…?)


  1. Your words always move me in some way…today they were like a transporter back in time…it’s like I was there with you…caught up in the smoke and ash and sadness and sheer disbeleief. You’re so right-sometimes it takes a rubber band snap on the wrist to cause us pause. Time to reflect and remember. There are gifts in every experience and I’m sure the gift of that tragedy, for me, was to appreciate each and every day as if it were my last and to never take for granted living in a free country full of heart and soul. Thank you for sharing wholeheartedly! With gratitude…


    1. Allison, thank you. It’s such a strange phenomenon, to have been there, to have lived that day. It’s such a seminal moment in a generation’s history. In this case, yes, an American history. Just as there have been other days for other cultures, for other countries, for other men, women and children. But this one is a personal one for me. But remembering to take each day for the sunshine it may bring or the laughter that may ring is important, like you say–it’s important not to take that for granted. And if it takes one day a year to remind us of that, so be it. (And more Proseco has been drunk, so forgive the rambling….). Above all, thank you!


  2. This had a feeling of solemn intensity, for me, reminiscent of Ginsberg’s poem Kaddish written in response to the death of his mother, which begins,

    “Strange now to think of you, gone without corsets & eyes, while I walk on the sunny pavement of Greenwich Village.
    downtown Manhattan, clear winter noon, and I’ve been up all night, talking, talking, reading the Kaddish aloud, listening to Ray Charles blues shout blind on the phonograph
    the rhythm the rhythm—and your memory in my head three years after—And read Adonais’ last triumphant stanzas aloud—wept, realizing how we suffer—”

    BTW “The term “Kaddish” is often used to refer specifically to “The Mourner’s Kaddish”, said as part of the mourning rituals in Judaism in all prayer services, as well as at funerals (other than at the grave site – see below Kaddish ahar Hakk’vurah) and memorials. When mention is made of “saying Kaddish”, this unambiguously refers to the rituals of mourning. Mourners say Kaddish to show that despite the loss they still praise God.”

    Anyway, the post was a very moving piece, powerfully written. Peace to all.


    1. What a thoughtful response, and thank you for the poem–I think my familiarity with Ginsberg started and ended with Howl, so I was/am unfamiliar with this. I have such a complicated relationship with NYC and indeed the US at the moment. But I do mourn that easy going, sassiness that pervaded all of us pre-9/11. So perhaps your analogy is spot on.


    1. Thank you. I do think it is important to remember, but the further away I get from that day, the more important I think it is to remember to be kind and to be loving and forgiving, because things can–and will–change in a heartbeat.


  3. Excellent post Dina. So touching. The events of September 11th are an American thing, a NY thing. However they touched millions of people all over the world and we will all remember where we were that day. The date 9/11 is for ever printed in our minds.


    1. As it should be, I think. As we continue to move forward, hopefully that remembrance will take the form of remembering to be the type of person you want to be remembered for. Though it was one nation who bore the brunt, so many came together. I would like to believe that that counts for something.


    1. Thank you for taking the time to read it. I think September 11 is one of those days that reaches down and grabs at the humanity within us,no matter who you are or where you are from.


  4. Of all the dates in my life that I’m supposed to remember, this is the one I never forget and I am instantly transported back to that time and those events on this day. A touching post, thoughtfully written.


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