I'd just arrived at work, put my purse under my desk, and managed two swallows of coffee before my "cubie mate" came rushing around the corner, her eyes red and watery. "Where does your brother live?" were her first words, not "good morning." I have three brothers so the question needed clarification. "Which one?" I asked. "The one in New York," she quickly responded, the tears now flowing easily over the apple of her cheeks. I caught my breath for a moment, sizing up that something was drastically wrong. "He lives in Manhattan," I finally answered carefully. "Why?"
At that point her crystal blue eyes filled her face. "You don't know, do you?" The little hairs on my neck prickled. "Know what?" I swallowed down. She didn't say anything, grabbed my arm and yanked me into our lawfirm's managing partner's office, where a television displayed a scene worthy any apocalyptic horror movie. At first I didn't understand what I watched. The twin towers, the two most impressive buildings I'd ever stood in the shadow of about two years prior, both bore gaping, smoldering holes.
Suddenly, my caffeinated-deprived brain made the connection and terror ripped through me. As I listened to the anxious voice recapping the horrid events playing out in real time for our stunned nation, my mind raced trying to determine where my brother would be at this time of the morning. He taught classes at the college only a few blocks from where the inferno raged, but my main concern was my then sister-in-law who worked in the financial district. Before I finished dialing my brother's number, which droned an electronic busy signal, I watched, frozen in an increment time I'd forever remember right down to how the carpet felt beneath my feet, as the towers gave way in a sick groan and crumbled into a massive gray cloud.
Most of my co-workers had never basked in the beauty of those architectural wonders, their glass facades mirroring Hudson Bay on one side, the East River on the other, and the delicate symbol of freedom, Lady Liberty encased in the Atlantic, like a badge of honor on their front sides. I went home at lunch, retrieved the wall poster of an aerial view of Manhattan I'd bought my youngest son, who was enthralled with New York City, but hadn't gone on the trip with me. I tacked it on the bulletin board in the copy room across from the office where the tragic events of the morning played over and over. During the day, I watched my co-workers stop and study the beautiful towers of glass that were the focal point of the picture. "I had no idea how beautiful they were," was the comment stated the most.
The structures were beautiful -- magnificent actually would be a better description. The Freedom Tower and reflective gardens being erected in their honor are also beautiful, but nothing will ever compare to the man-made wonders that once rested on that piece of earth, nor can any monument ever be constructed that will do justice to the memories of those who became mere names etched in stone, in the wake of the tragedy.
Now, they want us to tuck the memory away -- stuff it in a drawer marked "historical events." Claims that it's too painful for survivors of those who died, to keep reliving the tragic events year after year, or that it's not fair to them to publicly parade their loss because they've moved on with their lives.
I'm waving the "bullshit flag."
Have they really moved on in their lives? Have any of us? No. We're learned to live with what happened, but we will never move past it. Like I said, I can zap myself back to that moment, the memory still as raw and emotional eleven years later. Those who witnessed the collapse, whose lungs filled with remnants of the twin towers and those who died entombed in the massive destruction; who, like my brother, walked in mass across the bridges to the their homes, lived in terror of what was happening in the world around them because they'd lost all communication with the outside world; not to mention those whose loved ones never walked through the front door or slept in their beds again, leaving survivors with unsaid goodbyes, will never move past what happened. I can't even fathom the feelings those who were "chosen" to receive the final calls filled with "I'm sorry, I love you and goodbye forever," knowing the next time they heard their beloved caller's name it would be uttered from the lips of a total stranger, reading a passenger list of those heroes and heroines who knowingly sacrificed their life so I'd have a chance to stand on my patriotic soapbox today.
Our nation, collectively and individually, was forever changed, and asking us to "put away the memory" is a blatant slap in the face as far as I'm concerned. My security blanket was shredded that day, and I count myself among the lucky ones. My sister-in-law was away at a conference in Florida, and my brother was fine physically, but emotionally, like the rest of the New Yorkers who stood as witness, now scarred for life. But hey, let's tuck away that awful day, not relive the memory, or take a moment out of our busy lives to remember those who went to work the same as most of us, never to return home because they were destroyed at the hands of what could truly be called "grim reapers."
I say never. No one can make me dismiss such a poignant moment in time or diminish it's importance, anymore than they can stop me from my freedom to express my opposition to the idea, bend my knee in gratitude, or prevent the sudden spark of anger that ignites with the memory, only to be doused by the outpouring of patriotism that rose in the wake of 911.
Don't forget, or let anyone else for that matter. Pass on the stories, recant the events, share your memories and feelings regarding this precious moment, to the generations that follow in your footsteps. Don't let what happened eleven years ago today ever be "tucked away."
What about you? Do you believe 911 should quietly fade into history's background?