Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Trying to Find 9/11

For the first four anniversaries of 9/11, I avoided the news coverage. I had no desire to relive a day that cut me so deeply. But yesterday I ended my avoidance and absorbed as much 9/11 news and commentary as I could. I read blog posts and news stories. I watched a documentary. I looked at disturbing videos posted on-line—images that the network news never showed us because of their horror.

I don’t really know why I felt so compelled to absorb so much from that day. Maybe I was seeking some form of catharsis. Maybe I wanted release. But no release came.

Oh, there were moments yesterday when a flash of raw emotion, like static electricity leaping from a door handle, would hit me. But then it was gone. I cried some, but not the kind of tears that cleanse. Just the stuttering, unbidden tears of a man trying to keep his composure.

Something about it all still seems like a terrible dream. All we have to do is will ourselves to awaken and those towers will still be standing. Those people still alive. If we just could find a way to wake up.

And perhaps that’s why I immersed myself in the coverage. I simply had to remember the reality of it all. Five years has gone fast but it is still time enough to forget the details. It’s still time enough to twist narratives and change outlooks. So easy is it to view that day through the prisms of what’s happened since that I felt driven to go back and remember it for how it was.

But I failed. Everything I saw, all that I read, I did so with the pressing knowledge that 9/11 is not just one day anymore. It is many days with many meanings to many people. We all might hurt but we don’t hurt for the same reasons anymore. Then again, why should we? Our nation thrives on our ability to not just contain but to permit and even encourage infinite viewpoints—even ones that are terribly wrong.

There will be no closure to 9/11. That day tore down the very notion of closure. This will never be an event we can put in a box and store on history’s shelf—not in our lifetimes, at least. We live 9/11 still. And these anniversaries are about more than remembrance. They are also about acknowledgement of the forces now pulling and pushing our day-to-day lives—and how differently so many of us feel about those forces.

Maybe someday September 11th will just be a day of memorials. But for now and for years to come, it is also a day for talk, for thought and for debate.

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