Every year it’s the same thing. Eagles and flags superimposed on stock images of the twin towers and some kind of “never forget” reminder splashed everywhere.
Sixteen years later, I don’t need a reminder never to forget.
I haven’t forgotten. It’s something I still live with every single day and I was one of the very fortunate ones to bear witness but not have lost anyone directly.
What I find equal parts amazing and frustrating is that for essentially 364 days of the year New York City is chastised by ‘Murika as being a bastion of evil libtard scum. And, then, suddenly it’s all about how NYC is a beacon of hope and courage and embodies the American Spirit as Murikans dust off the memories of what they saw on TV sixteen year ago for a few moments of silence before returning to their axe-to-grind against anyone who’s not like them.
It’s a sad, but really quite a predictable part of the human condition. So some of my critique of their bandwagon-esque approach to memorializing the day is always tempered by the knowledge that my psychological scars are uniquely my own and my experience living here with the sights, sounds, smells, etc. are quite different than those who may have only watched it on TV from afar and have had a much different relationship with the world than I have in the sixteen years since.
They may only have one day a year, on the anniversary, when it comes up in conversation. Meanwhile, for me it’s likely there might only be a couple of days in the entire year were it doesn’t.
Likewise, they may only run into someone else with a personal, first-hand story about it once in a blue moon. It’s more likely the only time that happens for me are on the days I am a hermit and don’t leave the house. Even with the massive population changes that occur daily in the tri-state, the shear number of us with direct links to that day who are still local is overwhelming.
And, the physical reminders are everywhere. First, you literally cannot go anywhere in the tri-state where there’s not a memorial – nearly every town I’ve visited around here lost someone in the attack or had direct ties to first responders and that’s not including the impossible to miss Ground Zero dedication. Of course, too, you cannot commute through the City without reminders even still, such as the Cortlandt Street 1 train station and the street rerouting in Lower Manhattan post-9/11, or the businesses that are in a perpetual recovery having survived. And, there’s the Tchotchke Tourist shops littered with memorial paraphernalia at every major intersection and transit hub. Plus, there’s all the commercials and signage still to this day encouraging first responders, volunteers, residents and anyone else who may have been impacted by their time in and around Lower Manhattan to seek help, join litigation and more. These are things you just don’t experience anywhere else outside of the area which contribute to keeping the memory that much more prevalent than it already is for many of us.
On a different note, those of us who experienced it did so in many cases with the diversity of life that is the tri-state. While some of us come from smaller, more insulated social circles than others, there’s a different kind of perception and bond among those in NYC in general than there might be in many other places.
They still may never met a Muslim or someone from the middle east even 16 years later. Actually, it’s a pretty good possibility that for many they may have never met anyone from outside the country, or even from outside their immediate area. Therefor, the homogeny of their lives insulates them from experiencing the effects of 9/11 daily the same way that those of us who experience diversity who knew those of other faiths, ethnicities and life experiences before that fateful day and likely continue to interact with multicultural diversity all the time. Believe me, it makes a huge difference in the collective memory to only focus on the TV images of white businessmen running away from the towers covered in ash as compared to interacting with survivors who come from all walks of life.
For me, my personal story on why I live with the experience every day isn’t any better than anyone else’s relationship with today. Which is why although it does anger and frustrate me that some people may only think about what happened once a year I try to cut them some slack on their homerisms in paying homage to the loss. It’s not just their fault individually that they salute the fallen once a year with flag waving chats of U-S-A or whatever memorial services they happen to catch on the TV.
This isn’t a competition of who is the bigger patriot or who hurts more in remembering it, or whatever false equivalency is floated around comparing how Americans deal with the day.
While it would be nice if the triumph of people coming together over that great tragedy were still expressed day-in-and-day-out by everyone that’s not how human nature works. There are very few alive who remember Pearl Harbor’s Day of Infamy and none living who remember the Civil War. Which is probably why, in part, our collective recollection as to how sacred those things once were is mitigated for many to lines in a history book. There isn’t the vigilance to the memory of those lost perhaps in the same way now, as they barely a part of the true daily lexicon of being an American other than these vague beliefs about how it once was. Every year, as the anniversary number grows inevitably larger the fates of those memories will pass to the same kind of place that others have gone, for many, because they weren’t ever there to have even experienced it originally to begin with.
So, when today rolls around for me, it’s weird because I’ve never forgotten. I don’t need the once a year reminder to keep in my thoughts how life-changing what happened really ways. But, I get the need for the occasion to take on the pomp-and-circumstance it has, because for many, without the reminder, there’s a good chance they might not have many other opportunities in life to re-face both the collective anxiety and the celebrate collective good will and American Spirit that came out of that day.
Every year when I jot down my thoughts they come out a little different. It’s because my emotions about the topic are constantly evolving as I grow as a person year after year. I used the fixed point in time as an opportunity to evaluate what it means to me after living another year of my own changes as well as those of the world around me. It’s why what I wrote in reflection in year one reads different than it does this year and I image when I’m retelling my experiences to my own Padawan when they are older my emotional response to it will have changed again.
When I am feeling up to it and I write what is on my mind as a way to just understand what it means to me at a fixed point in time since although I live it every day I don’t always have the ways and means to document that. I’m not going to stop and write all of my thoughts after passing each memorial or when seeing another store display or looking out my office window across the way from Ground Zero and the new Freedom Tower.
It still hurts. But, it hurts differently now.
It still angers me. But, I’m angry in a different way.
It still leave me in awe. But, I’m appreciative in a different manner.
And, that’s what today really is for me. An opportunity not just for the annual coming together, but a very deep, personal retrospective look at what I’ve been thinking and feeling day-in-and-day-out for the past year.