This is the time when we are exhorted to remember the tragedy of September 11th. We hear stories of sorrow and heroism that have been told hundreds of times, and we hear the stories that are still being revealed, knowing that there is an endless supply of such stories.
On the tenth anniversary I happened to be in that liminal place between having a disease and knowing I had a disease. My stomach hurt but I still thought I was fine. I continued reflecting on a new normal with no idea how prescient those words would be. I poo-poohed remembering:
I know it’s trendy to say “Never Forget” on a day like this, but I don’t think there is any danger of anyone forgetting. It is a beautiful tribute to hear the stories of those killed on this day, and to memorialize them at the site of the attack. They shouldn’t ever be forgotten. But I refuse to turn into a pillar of salt, looking back and looking back until I forget which way is forward anymore. Maybe a sister motto to “never forget” would be “keep going”.
We never know what we can accomplish in the shadow of tragedy and gloom. We finish races, we sing songs, we write, we teach, and in the course of it we remember even while we’re looking forward. The stories we remember from September 11, 2001 are those of action – people rushing into buildings, calling loved ones, even taking down attackers. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe a moving target can be hit, but I’m not quite sure it can be destroyed.
This year, in 2016, we entered September and the memorials started, on the TV and radio, in cultural programming. These made my soul feel heavy and tired, and I wasn’t sure if I didn’t need to be reminded, or I didn’t want to be reminded.
The memory of that day is written in my bones – and perhaps in all of ours. There was a life before the dread and fear and conflict, but maybe I, a college senior at the time, am just young enough not to remember it. Maybe it’s easier not to.
The truth is that first trauma is mixed together with the constant readiness for mourning that the last 15 years have demanded of us. I have held comfort and hope in my heart despite the ever-increasing onslaught of bad news, and I will continue to – what else can I do? But I am suddenly so weary of remembering.
I now understand even more when so many faith traditions hold remembering as a virtuous – even sacramental – act. We must do it even when it is the hardest thing for us. So we continue to hold tragedies in our hearts, and pray that we have no more such tragic deposits to make in our accounts of heartbreak.