I almost didn’t write a post about 9/11 this year. That would’ve been a first for me since beginning this blog. Sometimes it was a post, sometimes a video, but it was always something. If not on 9/11, then right around that time.
But this time I thought maybe not, even though it’s been ten years now. A decade. Anyone else feel as strangely about that as I do? I’ve read that scientists are studying why it seems that time speeds up as we grow older. Something in the brain, if I remember correctly. Some chemical or a certain pattern of neurons. Regardless, I remember a time when my days seemed to stretch on into forever. Now they pass so quickly. If there is anything I miss about childhood, it’s that sense of earthly eternity—that permanence.
That’s one reason I wanted to let this 9/11 pass. It feels like only yesterday I sat on the edge of my bed and watched those towers bleed fire and ash. Watched those poor souls jump from stories high, choosing death by gravity over death by immolation. Even now I see them. Those images will haunt me for the rest of my days. But I did not see that yesterday, I saw that ten years ago, and so much has happened since.
Another reason was how politicized the commemoration of 9/11 has become, how over-the-top. I hear religious leaders are not allowed to speak at Ground Zero this year, nor firefighters, nor policemen. I don’t understand how that could be. Then again, I don’t understand much these days. Sometimes I feel as though we’re all galloping toward some final end, and the ones leading the charge are the ones who are supposed to be protecting us.
But mostly, I wanted to let this 9/11 pass because of how strongly I still feel about it. To this day I cannot see an image of those ash-covered people fleeing for their lives or hear Alan Jackson’s “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” or be reminded of the phrase “Let’s roll” without feeling my eyes sting and my throat tighten. Ten years seems a long time to hang on to such emotions. There comes a point when the mourning must stop and time must continue on. We all must learn to let go. After all, life is a straight line. It isn’t a circle.
That’s why I didn’t want to write anything.
And yet here I am, doing just that.
Because no matter how well-intentioned the people who say it’s time to get over it and move on may be, I know I never will. There are some things that should not be whisked away into the haze of our yesterdays to fuse with other memories until it becomes more fiction than fact. There are some stories that should continue to be told and retold not out of a sense of anger, but a sense of honor.
It is human nature to want to set aside pain and cover up old wounds. It is also human nature to hold onto those things because they are a reminder of both the coldness of this world and the faith we must possess to live upon it.
I could forget. I could move on. I could bow my head each September 11 and pause, and then I could move on as if it were any other day.
But I’m afraid if I do I will also forget the men and women who ran toward those flames rather than away.
I will forget an outpouring of love and kindness, of unity, that I had never experienced in my country.
I will forget the stories I heard like the man who believes he was guided to safety by an angel and the man who chose to stay and die in the North Tower rather than abandon his wheelchair-bound friend.
I’m afraid that I will forget not only the horror, but the wonder as well.
Because on that day ten years ago I saw what evil there lurked in the souls of men, and I also saw what grace abides there, too.