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1 year, 11 months: thoughts and some questions

Here it is, August 11 already.

At this time last year, we were being inundated with articles about the coming anniversary of 9/11. Who was going to speak where, what each affected city had planned, memorials upon memorials anD concerts in honor of and prayer services for the lost, the dead, the heroes.

A year later we are focused on Iraq and California. We're busy laying blame, telling lies and turning celebrities into politicians.

Meanwhile, I'm walking a thin line between sadness and anger, the same as I did last year and the twelve months before that. I'm both sad and angry that people have dismissed that day, that they no longer want to talk about it or think about it.

We must not forget. We must not forget the terror that cut through a quiet fall morning. More important, we must not forget the way we held hands afterwards.

For a brief, wonderful moment, we were all in this together. We leaned on each other and lent comfort and hope. We gathered together spread our arms out to total strangers. We had resolve. We had strength in our weakest moment. From the flames, hope was forged. In the midst of sadness, comfort was found.

It was all too brief. Once again, we parted ways, divided ourselves into groups and walked down different avenues. In our haste to get back to "normal" we forgot how to stay together. The spark that lit our souls and made us vow to be united become a dull ember, growing darker and darker until no one even remembered it had existed.

We failed to take the single most important lesson from that day with us when we climbed out of our blackness. We did come together, but we did not stay together. We went our separate ways and some turned their anger back on us and spit on us as we mourned.

Some stopped remembering. They stopped staring at the skies, waiting for the lion to awake once again. They stopped comforting each other and stopped thinking about that day.

It is a mistake to think the sleeping lion will always sleep. It is a mistake to think our enemies have spent their energy and will retreat forever. It is a grave mistake to turn from each other again and split this place in two, for that is what our enemy wants, and that's when he will wake and pounce again.

He laughs at us as the day slips farther and farther from our memories. The flags are battered and torn, the signs hanging over freeways broken and written over. He grins as his day of glory becomes less and less of a factor in our lives.

When we forget, we drop our resolve, we lose our strength and we open ourselves up to letting it happen again.

Despite all the increased security, all the color-coded warnings and preparations, we have forgotten the most important thing. We have lost that feeling of urgency, of shared grief, of the solid core of hope we became on that day. We lost our grip on that and now we are like enemies of ourselves, slipping into a wary world where everyone eyes each other as some kind of rival or competitor.

In one month it will be two years. I don't know what the standard period of mourning is for something like this, but I suppose I'll be extending it.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who senses that those 3,000 lives have become somewhat less important to us. For some, they've become important for all the wrong reasons; they are victims used to throw out baseless accusations and useless statistics. They have become the rallying cry of conspiracy theorists.

And what have they become to us? Just tiny little specks off in our distant memory?

The worst thing we can do is become complacent and lose the grief we felt that day. We cannot put the past behind us, at least not this part of the past, because that would only open us up to living the same thing again in the future.

What are you doing on September 11, 2003? Will it be just another day for you or will you take some time to remember? Have you taken anything from that day? Has your life changed, your mind changed, has it had any impact on you besides the obvious? Have any of us learned anything at all?

Further reading:

9/11/02: 99 people tell personal stories of that day

The cross in the above photo is made of steel from the remains of the World Trade Center. Read more here.

I should also note that this has been an unplanned, stream-of-thought post. I apologize for any typos or unfinished thoughts. I just wanted to put out something raw, as is, no editing.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference 1 year, 11 months: thoughts and some questions:

» Taking stock 30 days early from dustbury.com
It's a month before the anniversary of the date which will live in infamy as "9/11", and I admit to... [Read More]

» We must never forget from Freedom Lives
Michele has a good post on the upcoming anniversary of 9/11. Despite all the increased security, all the color-coded warnings and preparations, we have forgotten the most important thing. We have lost that feeling of urgency, of shared grief, of... [Read More]

» Steel Cross from Abraca-Pocus!
A cross was made of steel from the remains of the World Trade Center and it is featured on a small victory where Michele wrote a heartfelt blog entry about the upcoming 9/11 anniversary where she writes: "The worst thing [Read More]

» We haven't forgotten from On The Third Hand
For michele, in response to "1 year, 11 months: thoughts and some questions". We haven't forgotten. The horror has receded; [Read More]

» The plans they made put an end to you from au currant: politics, media & lowbrow culture
Jeff Jarvis, a survivor of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, reports on the plans to comemmorate the... [Read More]

» 9/11/03 from Note-It Posts
Michele writes a very thought-provoking article on not forgetting what happened on September 11, 2003. It's emotional, and parts are heart-rending. I agree with her that we "failed to take the single most important lesson from that day with us... [Read More]

» We must never forget from Freedom Lives
Michele has a good post on the upcoming anniversary of 9/11. Despite all the increased security, all the color-coded warnings and preparations, we have forgotten the most important thing. We have lost that feeling of urgency, of shared grief, of... [Read More]


We should never forget. Sometimes it takes having to see it again. I knew CNN had a page with all of the major video from that day, including the horrific video of the second plane crashing into the tower. People can go here to see them.

nice. absolutely true.

The tides of terrorist ambitions have been rising for the past twenty-four years. Twenty-four years of kidnappings, hyjackings, civilian bombings, embassy bombings, military bombings, and ultimately, mass murder on 9/11.

We cannot continue to swim under this tide and simply hope the terrorist will go away. Politicians like Howard Dean, Al Gore, and Robert Byrd want us to believe our actions to confront terrorism are misguided. The politicians, along with their followers, who have the Dean/Gore/Byrd ideology need to pull their heads out of the oil now, otherwise, we will all be at the mercy another 9/11.

The horrific events on 9/11 is not just another terrorist attack, it is a tragic reminder that the war is real and that terrorist have every intention of destroying the free world.

America has been under attack for the past twenty-four years, 9/11 woke us to the reality that war is upon us.

I will never forget!

Since I'm still working with a gagglefuck of Yanks I know already that there will be a few minutes of silence, which I'll be only too happy to reflect through.

Although there might not be the erratic "sky is falling" urgency there was in the months following 9/11 I think you're wrong to say that people have forgotten and grown complacent. We were given the world's worst wake-up call on 9/11 and nobody sane could not have taken some lesson away from that. People are just being people, some of them are being assholes but some of them have been changed forever.

Well said Michele.

Although I'm someone that prefers to live in the present instead of living in the past, 9/11 should have never happened in the first place if the gvt. boys were on their game :-(

I never forget. I try to remember and reflect extra on that day. Last year I had friends over and just spent time together. It is also my birthday. It seems too difficult to celebrate on that day.

Well said. I see planes fly overhead all the time and not without remembering that day or knowing that it could happen again or worse.

You are wrong. Unless you are refering to our efforts or lack of efforts over the last 10 or 12 years. The "gvt. boys" as you call them are not miracle workers. They can do amazing things but it the real world, unlike the movies, there are many obstacles that stand in the way and a huge ammount of raw intellegence that must be sifted through in order to find the nuggets that will keep us safe and our way of life intact.

Sweetie, I have not nor ever will get over the pain of that day. I am currently reading A Heart, a Cross, and a Flag by Peggy Noonan. I am taking my time which is easy because I cry durning every page. She is so soothing and wonderful and it's helping me deal a little bit easier... that someone else still feels the poignancy. Never Forget. SondraK

Not three days after Sept. 11th 2001, people were telling me to get over it, to act as though it never happened. Acknowledging it would be tantamount to giving into fear, they said. When I refused to act normal, not to think about it or write about it or mention it, they dismissed me as frantic and paranoid. This was the majority of my friends and family at the time. September 11th did not bring me closer to many people at all. I never felt the wonderful togetherness that you describe Michele (and I'm in NYC) because all of the people I knew were too busy being "logical" and "rational" and congratulating themselves on what logical rational genuises they were that they didn't let emotion overwhelm them or even factor into their lives in the aftermath of an event of such magnitude.

September 11th 2001 brought me closer to exactly two people. The rest it pushed away. I have no cause, reason, or way to forget that day and its aftermath for many many reasons. I thought I was alone then Michele. You're not alone in your feelings now.

I have not forgotten. I don't think it's possible to ever forget what happened that day. I will always remember where I was and what I was doing when I found out this happened.

With that being said, though, I don't live in New York. I live in the Midwest. I'm not reminded of what happened when I walk down the street or look out the window every day. I didn't know anyone personally who lost their life in those attacks.

I think some people say they "don't want to hear about it" because of a few reasons. Some people don't want to relive that day over and over again. They want to try and forget something that you can't forget about. Others say this because they've gotten oversaturated with the constant news coverage. I know I had to stop watching the news after awhile because I'd reached my limit. And yes, others are just being jerks.

People grieve differently, too. Some take longer than others to get to a the point where they can say to themselves, "Yes, I won't forget this, but life goes on." I have to live my life. I have to do this because if I don't, then those terrorists have won.

Last year at this time, I was not looking forward to the month of September. I was not looking forward to the first anniversary of 9/11. I did not want to relive that day over again. I still don't. Seeing it as it happened was bad enough. And on top of that, two weeks after that happened, my grandfather passed away. Last year was the first anniversary of both.

There is one thing I will always remember from that day. It's not seeing what happened as it unfolded. I work nights. And that night, at work, one of my co-workers got on the PA. This co-worker of mine immigrated to this country from the Phillipines. A few months prior to this, he got his US citizenship. He went over the PA that night and he started singing. It was normal to hear him do this, because people would get him to go on the PA and sing Happy Birthday to other people or he'd sing some good-bye song for a co-worker who was leaving. That's just the kind of place I work at. That night, he got on the PA and he sang "God Bless America". When I heard that, I nearly broke down and cried. So did a lot of other people.

We must never forget. But in time things begin to fade and current events always have a way of crowding out other thoughts and memories.

I wonder about our Grandparents Generation and how did they remembered Pearl Harbor. I think in some ways it was easier since the enemy at the time was so clearly marked and when it was defeated they were able to have closure.

Working on Long Island at the time I remember seeing the towers in the distance burn..the smoke going from black to white to a sickly yellow. I remember racing home hearing the reports on the radio and wondering where would we be attacked next. I remember hoping my mom was okay and wishing nothing more then to see her home safe.

I wonder if we will ever truly have closure in this post 9/11 world.

I don't believe we will ever have closure on 9/11. Too many people left our lives too suddenly. And I'm sure those who lost loved ones will never, ever, feel closure. Those that died were taken away from all of us by completely mis-guided and malicious persons, and they will never stand trial, will never say I'm sorry, will never utter another word - as they, too, burned in the rubble.

However, I hope there is a day where people will not dwell on 9/11. I hope that people can move on, can move from despair and anxiety, and come to terms that all this has already happened. There's NOTHING we can do now about what is in the past. The most important thing that everyone can do is keep what has happened in their hearts, remember there are other lives out there - those who helped, and still help, through kindness and love for the rest of mankind.

And, yes, regrettably, we might have to face more tragedy in the future. Hopefully, we all can do something to prevent another 9/11. And hopefully how we do that is by respecting ourselves and those around us, not by pointing fingers and hating.

Why do I get the nagging thought that most of the major media will make a "sensible pact" not to show the 9/11 video?

I'm especially thinking about that moving footage shot by the French brothers who were filming a documentary about firefighters in NYC... it was show 6 months after 9/11, introduced by Deniro... and I haven't seen it since.

Brace yourself, I predict a lot of naval gazing this anniversary. The usual "I'm not excusing it, but we must look at our own blame in causing 9/11."

I hear that and I sweat I'm going whack that person with my flagpole. ;-)

I will never forget.

The other Marines I work with will never forget. Some are just back from back-to-back fights in Afghanistan and Iraq. We're all ready to respond to the next one, which is surely coming.

What gets lost in the muffling roar of life is the nature of this war. It's like a pile of pick-up sticks, each piece of which supports the others. In many ways, we stifle ourselves; it wasn't but hours after the attacks that the national Prozac of "grief counselors" moved in to "start the healing". We cut off coverage of those who fell to their deaths rather than burn. We shunned coverage of the carnage. We carried no video of what the recovery teams were recovering. It would be easy for many to think of the results of the attacks as property damage. A few days ago the media reported "terrorists downed Flight 93"--as if it matters. The men and women who caused the end of that threat are giants, regardless of whether they ever actually reached the controls.

Many want to sugar coat a world of sharp edges, and live in a soft, fuzzy cocoon where harsh realities never reach us. These people need to be jarred, again and again, until they can understand that the struggle is for our culture, and our national identity. We should acknowlege the real carnage of that day, not the sanitized, gee-whiz, matrix-like video of a plane crashing into a tower.

I live in New York and I saw the second plane hit from a few blocks away. I agree with grs above that there was a lack of community and a feeling of denial here. It didn't bring me closer to most of the people in my life, but the opposite. "Get over it" "move on" "Don't dwell on it" and all the rest were common refrains by only a few days afterwards. Candlelight vigils were interrupted by cell phone calls, and by laughing and chatting. I lived in a bad neighborhood in Brooklyn at the time and the neighborhood kids all the way up to late teenagers there really didn't care, or actually thought the whole thing was cool, or made horrible jokes. Union Square, at first a place where people were coming together to refelct or to honor the dead, quickly became predominantly a forum for the usual assortment of "peace" activists to foment their views, before there was even a proposed war to protest. A friend of mine who used to share my mostly conservative views but had been living in London for awhile had apparently absorbed that oh-so-sophisticated European sensibility. She assured me that the attacks were not an assault on Western values but merely a message for the US to get out of the Middle East. Oh, that's all. A message. Now I understand. Various other people I knew ground their various other political axes without pausing to reflect on the dead.
Everyone I knew who was in a relationship just bunkered in as a couple and cut themselves off from the outside world. Understandable perhaps, but tough for me as I didn't have a girlfriend at the time. When I did get a chance to talk to these people they were so light and jovial I couldn't stand it. These are just a few examples of callousness, denial, and fractious politicization that I experienced shortly after 9/11 thatI can stand to think about right now. There are many others that happened to me that are too painful to contemplate or that I just heard about anecdotally or that I read about. To be sure the examples of compassion and heroism and of people coming together are also there, and I had an amazing experience volunteering at the armory on 23rd Street, but, frankly most of the people who really seemed to "get it" were not from this city. I felt more of a sense of kinship from talking to friends in the midwest and other places than from anything else. Anyway, this is rambling and too long, sorry. My point (if there is one) is that, as Lileks said, its still 9/12. It will be for a long, long time for me, and its frustrating when people don't understand that.

Since 9/11 things will never be the same for us in North America.
We have enjoyed being untouchable for a long time.
9/11 was the end of the innocence for us.

People do not forget, Michele, but you ought to forgive them for getting on with their humdrum everyday lives - especially those for whom it was an intimate and personal tragedy. Life goes on, as it must. But to confuse this with "forgetting" is a mistake: I'm sure we can all conjour again the fire of rage we felt that day at a moment's notice? I know I can.

Anniversaries are particularly difficult times for the bereaved, any bereaved, full of dread as you conciously allow the horrors to creep back. I know that for many years, having lost in separate years two closest-possible members of my own wee family, both around christmastime, that I have hated christmas: have given santa and all his happy clappy henchmen a lookful of daggers, and felt almost compelled to stick their jingley bells up their arses? "What you fucking singing at, dickwad?" kind of thing.

But you don't, you know? You get on and get over as you must, if madness is to be averted. Kids still need raising, breakdown an indulgence. But you don't forget either. No.

We haven't forgotten.

I'm with Hoodie on this -- life goes on, and it's good that it does. I don't get nostalgic for people "coming together" after September 11, maybe because I was too busy trying to get my nerves settled and figure out how to go on after they blew up my office. Two years on, I still grind my teeth and I still jump at some loud noises, but I'm thankful for the most of the day that I don't think about it.

What matters is not how soon we "get over it" but how we hang on to our resolve to see the war on terror through to the end.

As time goes by, it's normal for big events to lose some of their impact. Especially events with heavy media coverage- the media gorges until bursting, and then moves on to the next meal. Lather, rinse, repeat. This cycle eventually turns people off to even the most profound events, and the inevitable desire to just "move on" is almost an act of self defense.

In order to really remember 9/11, I try to concentrate on remembering things as they happened to me that day- the small moments where the terrible reality of what was happening punctured my entire worldview. I remember a terrible puff of dust rising up as I struck the foot stool in front of our couch when the first tower fell on TV. I remember saying "It must still be there!" as we waited for the dust in New York to settle. I remember the cruel, blue Colorado sky mirroring a perfect fall day thousands of miles away, as thousands met their end in falling rubble. I remember the jets circling overhead, not in an exercise, but to actually, terribly protect us. I remember passing our tiny firehouse, with the flag already at half staff so soon afterwards, and wondering what my firemen, the ones who would save me, were thinking.

These small moments changed me, and they still hang with me through everything that has happened since. A little bit of the fear, anger, shock and sadness of those moments has gone into everything I have done and said since that day. We have a country, and a way of life, and a set of values, and an incredible gift of freedom that are worth fighting for. That feeling is now at my core, and it is a flame I will carry the rest of my life in memory of those who died that day. We defend ourselves to preserve the precious normalcy that we so took for granted before 9/11. It is what we all want- as many moments as possible in our lives with a freedom from fear, want and hate. So many people around the world are forced to live without these freedoms. We are the one nation on earth that can bring them to as many as possible.

As one of the 5,200 people who submitted something to the design competition for the WTC memorial, I can say categorically that we have not forgotten September 11th. I would guess that for every person who submitted something, there were 5 or 10 people who seriously considered it or were part of a team that did. Think about that, that is enough people to fill a stadium. This turned out to be the largest design competition in history.

I think it is a healthy thing that people are resuming their everyday lives. In the months immediately after the attack, the act of remembering 9/11 became a fetish for many, especially the media. In order to make sense of what happened, it is important to have some distance from the event. This is why most national memorials are not built for many years, even decades.

The jury will be selecting designs for further study in just a few weeks. Regardless of what is eventually built, there will be hundreds of thoughtful and inspiring ideas for memorials for people to read about. The fact that so many people put so much time and effort into this speaks for itself.

It was inevitable. Every year we will remember a little less, be a little less emotional about it. It's human nature.

Just as it was human nature that, sooner or later, politics would rear its ugly head and people on the left and right would start bickering again. It can't be helped: national unity is a rare and always-fleeting thing. So many of us agreed to fight to make sure it never happened again, but then the doubts came as people began to disagree on how best to do that.

A way I've come to think of it is that some of us will make it our purpose to always remember, and to remind others, even though some roll their eyes at us or wave their hands in dismissal. Accept that some will do this and, instead of getting angry, or defensive, just stick firm to your convictions.

This can't be forgotten, and won't be. Especially for those of us who make it our business not to let it be.

Better than any op-ed in our lousy Long Island newspaper. I wish this could be read by every American. Great stuff, Michele

thanks for this michele
i cant comment further
as i dont want to go there today
but thanks for this

I agree with some as a NYer. I find it really hard to be around some people and dropped others. Those I dropped were those who said "well, I guess we had it coming for the Gulf war" (or some other excuse validating the actions of the terrorists). I also knew the love the rest of the country supposedly had for NY (Daly in Chicago saying we are all NYers) would disintigrate into the usual diatribes. I still hear potshots at the widows (most of whom did not apply for compensation), one local commenting on the new windows at the house of one of the victims (I guess she's not grieving unless the house and yard decay as proof of the family devastation).

I think it's either a sign we have forgotten or maybe it's just that some didn't "get it." With all the gripes about what the government didn't do to prevent it, most people are not willing to do what it takes to do so. I remember hearing soon after 9/11 that an FBI agent who was suspicious of the flying lessons was not granted a search warrent because he didn't have enough evidence. Then you have idiots like Charles Rangel who calls the deaths of Uday and Qusay "assasinations."

This essay by Victor David Hanson reflects my feelings exactly.


I have "moved on" because I work downtown every day and my office over looks the area you have to. However, I think about it every day, and loud clap of thunder gives me and my coworkers pause sometimes. I also get off the train when I see someone suspicious and have reported packages. Things I didn't think of 9/10.

Some of us have not forgotten.

During the summer of 2001, I was unemployed due to the collapse of my previous employer, a startup company that had tried to make the world's most sophisticated and cost-effective EtherNet switch. I spent months trawling for interviews, and got one: at a Manhattan company that wanted to hire me but was under a hiring freeze, imposed by a corporate parent, until its 2nd quarter results were in. The VP for information technology thought I was just swell, and I really wanted to work there, but there was nothing she could do until the Uber-company lifted the hiring freeze.

Then came a fine Tuesday morning when, thanks to early mail delivery in my little hamlet, I was sitting at my desk with tears running down my face. That Manhattan company had extended me an offer, and for more money than I could have reasonably expected to make in a single year, ever in my life. My glorious reverie and thanksgiving were interrupted when my elder daughter came rushing in to say:

"Dad, an airplane just hit the World Trade Center!

For the next two hours, my entire family sat glued to the television coverage of the worst terrorist atrocity ever committed.

The job offer? Oh, yes. That was from Cantor Fitzgerald, which once occupied floors 101 through 105 of One World Trade Center. Cantor Fitzgerald lost 70% of its employees on that day. Had the job offer arrived two weeks earlier, I'd have been a victim of the Black Tuesday attack.

Later on, I learned that three dear friends died in the World Trade Center that horrible day.

Some of us cannot forget.

I know you posted this a few days ago, but I just got around to reading it and I sat here for an hour reading that entire thread from a year ago. Bawling.

I'm not sure how I feel about it being two years soon. Can it really have been that long ago? Two years since everything changed?

I'm sure we'll all be thinking (and talking) about it more in the next month.

Great post. I linked to it.

Since Sept. 11, 2001 I have been especially thankful for the Internet. No one I know off-line talks about it very much. I never know how the person I'm talking to feels about it so I don't say anything either. On the Internet there's openness and togetherness. We might be thousands of mile away but it's like we're holding hands.