In the course of life, there are only a few days that bring back strong memories. Many are very personal, such a wedding, the birth of a child or the passing of a loved one. Others involve entire communities, such as a great flood or other natural disaster. Few connect to entire generations. For your grandparents, it may have been December 7. For your parents, it might have been November 22. But the defining day for my generation will likely always be 9/11.
It is not hard to remember even small details of that day. People who are now but footnotes in our lives are thought of because they were a small part of it. It is fascinating how we can even conjure up our emotional state of mind: the shock, the sadness, the fear. There was a kind of paranoia in those first few hours and even days. What else could happen to shatter another piece of the world we lived in just a few hours before?
And yet there is not a child in school today who has any memory of that day. Almost none of them were even born. People now old enough to buy a bottle of wine were in Kindergarten on 9/11. It is not their collective memory and it never will be. For them, it is just a story of something that happened a long time ago. Not our-story but his-story. They have never lived in a world without “homeland security” or a war in Afghanistan. They simply take for granted the surveillance state in which we live.
The events of just sixteen years past took the lives of thousands of good people with families and friends for whom our national tragedy is all too personal. Many still feel the events of that day have never been satisfactorily explained. But we all lost something else that day and no hijacker or terrorist anywhere took it from us. No, we gave it away ourselves. For any two bit loser of a human being can go out and kill a bunch of people. But the terrorist knows that isn’t the point. No, the point is to make us afraid and we will do the rest ourselves.
Give up your privacy and your liberties, they say. We have to know all and see all to keep you safe. We must have more wars and weapons, they say. We must fight everywhere forever to keep you safe. Be suspicious of your neighbor and be sure to report any funny business to the authorities, they say. You must trust the government to keep you safe. But is our world safer today or is it just more controlled? Have we wiped out the evil doers or just created more? Have the trillions of dollars we have spent made us more secure or left us even more vulnerable?
In another generation or two, today will mean nothing to the living. Those of us who lived it will be gone. But there will surely be other days that will touch the hearts of the youngest among us and those who are not yet born. Let us hope that their “day” will be one of celebration, not tragedy. Let us hope they remember a special feeling of liberation and joy, not fear and pain. And, maybe, just maybe, we can help bring about that day for them. It is the least we can do for the future and the best way we can honor the past.
We’ll be back to our regularly scheduled blend of the creative and the outrageous this coming Friday. I hope you’ll check it out. Until then, I wish you peace.