Every year, and I can't believe it has been 12, since the year that this country was attacked, I have feelings and want to say something. But because nothing really happened to me on that day, other than walking within the panic on the streets in New York and breathing in the vapor of death and devastation for weeks afterward, I have never felt entitled to say much. Other people suffered more. Other people witnessed much worse.
But here are the things that tend to come to mind on this day.
The weather. This year it was hot and humid in DC, nothing like the clear perfect air that absorbed the impacts of those planes. I walk out into the soup and feel a little relieved. It does not feel the same as that day's weather, so perfectly, relentlessly memorable.
I can't believe how in some ways it is almost like nothing happened. People post to social networks about their mundane concerns on this day, where before it would have been unthinkable to have anything but this event at top of mind. Is this progress, or regression? Maybe it's both.
How is it that my eyes still start to sting with tears at the image of the smoking towers, even though I have seen it so many times?
What do children, people who were just babies or not born yet, know about this day?
I don't like abbreviating it as 9/11, like it's a festival, or a thing. I never will. I still seem to be the only one who finds the opening sequence of 'Mad Men,' much as I love that show, a bit insensitive.
I remember us all looking for ways to contribute. We flooded Red Cross and fire stations with clothes and supplies until they finally had to tell us to stop. The survivors we were hoping to aid did not exist. There was nothing to be done.
Missing posters and candles and flowers on street corners for people who were not to be found.
The smell, the smell.
The panics. Evacuations based on fear, on a new world that no one understood yet. Being herded down a staircase in midtown, crying, not because anything was actually happening, but because of what now was possible.
Bin Laden is dead now. Suck it, Bin Laden. And yet that offers no real satisfaction.
The blessing of my family, ties that endure beyond that moment when we could not reach each other and were confronted with just how important that communication is.
The day is officially passed now. I avoided the memories pretty well, as did (I'm guessing) a lot of people. Is there an unseen price we are paying for that avoidance? Or is it just moving on?
Music: "Letters From the Sky"