Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years Later

Apparently time flies not only when you're having fun and when you're having rum, but also when you're thinking back to That Day. Can it really be ten years? I'm afraid it can because I have the proof of it - a teenager got in my cab recently, somehow the subject of 9/11 came up, and he said, "Well, I was only six years old then so I don't really remember it."

Oh my God. And I thought I was getting old when some kid said he didn't know that Paul McCartney was once in the Beatles.

Well, time marches on, but if anyone ever doubted that 9/11 was the seminal event of our lifetimes, just notice the extent to which it is not being forgotten. There are elements about the tragedy that fiercely demand that we hold onto it, that we do not let it go, that we sift out from the figurative ruins what the lessons of the event have become and use those lessons to improve conditions however we can.

On an emotional level, I know it is embedded in my psyche. I still get choked up in the middle of a sentence when a tourist asks me where I was on that day. I can still privately break out in tears when certain memories are evoked. Not that I dwell on it or feel stuck in it. But it's always there.

On an intellectual level, I take this with me, as grim as it is - that there exist, and I believe have always existed, certain beings on this planet who will use whatever pretext they can get their hands on to do harm to other people. It's not good enough to just come out and say, "What really turns me on is maiming and killing other people". You've got to have a cause if you want to do it in a really big way. Hitler and those who avidly followed him were stellar examples, as are the current crop.

So what can we do? For me, the lessons of 9/11 are threefold. First, you've got to find a cause of your own. Find an activity that is truly beneficial to mankind and do what you can to contribute to it. Second, speak out. Do not be afraid to make your opinions known. Write letters to the editor. Vote. Start a blog. Thoughts, when expressed, are like ripples in a pond. Never underestimate the effects of your ripples. And third...

On the fifth anniversary of 9/11 I visited Ground Zero late at night to pay my respects. Each year a certain area on Church Street was set aside for expressions of sympathy and support. I was drawn to one in particular, a large board with about fifty different messages on it which had been created by elementary school students in California. One of these messages was profound in its simplicity and affected me deeply.

"Be nice to people," was all it said.


To read other posts I've written about 9/11, please click on the labels below.


Shamus said...

Hey there,
I may be a bot behind, but thank you for this post.
I have struggeled with how to think through and share our 9/11 experiences for some time now.
This year, it became clear to me.
Keep it personal.
Share friend to friend, family members one to another.
Not the endless stream of news photos and documentries.
So, from one New Yorker to another....
Here are our 9/11 reflections.

jodester said...

carbthat is my motto in life! be nice to people is all we need... boil down every religion and i'm pretty sure that's what you get! i for one have always championed being nice, it gets such a bad rep, but a little bit of nice can really make someones day! x