How Observing September 11th Has Changed For Me Over The Years
I won’t bore you with my “there I was” story of that day 11 years ago because it’s rather boring and not even remotely related to the actual events of the day (for powerful recollections by people who were there I recommend Allahpundit and Baseball Crank). Suffice it to say like most people that day I experienced 9/11 via television. The truth is, aside from the occasional inconvenience at the airport, most of us have experienced the War on Terror that officially started that day on television (for more on that, see this).
Given that background it’s quite possible I have no right to say this but I simply can’t watch the coverage of that day any more. I used to force myself to do it, I wanted to fell the rage I felt that day but with no actual outlet for it it simply because an exercise in self-flagellation. For years there was a need for it. Too many people forgot too quickly (at least by my reading of the situation) and it was important to stoke the fires to remember why we needed to do certain things….most horribly send young men and women to far away places to fight, be horribly wounded and all too often to die. Perhaps it was a symbolic act, perhaps even more than a bit of penance for not joining the fight myself but it was important to be reminded of the raw wounds that led us to the situation we were in.
As the anniversaries began to accumulate, I would get very angry about the somber tone they quickly took on. Yes, nearly 3,000 people had been killed for no other reason than they were in America, they were in the wrong place at the wrong time and because there were dedicate Islamists who wished to wage war on us.
To me that last reason, that war was waged on us, should have been the national focus of the early memorials. The loss was not personal to most of us, as a nation we should be angry and vengeful, not tearful. Leave the tears to the families who had loved ones ripped from them in an instant. The rest of us should be furious and rededicate ourselves to the fight, however removed from it we are.
But something has changed for me as the years have gone on. Maybe it was the killing of bin Laden, last year’s 10th anniversary or just the fact that the battle launched that beautiful September morning has been largely won by us. Yes, we are still fighting an enemy that hates us but though greatly diminished, they will never go away. Islam has been at war with the rest of the world almost since its founding. That’s simply not going to change anytime soon
While we must remain vigilant, we as a nation in general won’t remain as mobilized to the degree we were in the days., months and years following 9/11, It’s simply the reality of the human condition.
It’s hard to maintain or manufacture rage, it’s a front and center emotion, it needs to be fed and tended to. Sadness and loss however are sometimes ever present, even in the background. The dull ache of absence is self-sustaining. We can and have exacted justice and revenge on those who brought war and suffering to our shores but we can never heal or make whole those whose losses that day were so personal.
For me, 9/11 has gone from a national day of rage to a very personal day of remembrance and sadness. I find I can not take part in the latter as I have no personal loss to grieve. Participating in the sadness seems to me to be voyeuristic and intrusive. My lack of participation isn’t from indifference but out of respect to those who now truly own this day.
September 11th now belongs to those who were lost and those they left behind. I can only hope they find peace in it.