9/11, Eight Years On

A longtime friend and blogger related feeling reluctant to write about 9/11 on this anniversary. “Everything just feels so tense and uncertain,” this person wrote, “I’m having a hard time focusing on the anniversary, and hasn’t everything that could be said about 9/11 been said?”

I confessed to a similar feeling. On one hand, one wants to write, “never forget, and never again,” on the other hand, one is almost tired of feeling the pain and the anger. It’s almost like remembering my brother’s deaths; I’d rather think of the good times. Or, perhaps more accurately, it is like remembering a past victimization that has scarred me, but which I cannot allow to own me.

I have received a lot of emails from bloggers saying, “don’t forget to write” about this or that aspect of 9/11. But I feel disinclined to join in. Not because I do not respect what they are saying or appreciate their efforts, but I have never been much of a joiner, or a lock-stepper; this 9/11, I’m feeling the urge to turn, a little, from the crowd. I don’t want to show pictures of the day. I don’t want to show President Bush consoling a family member in the tent. I don’t want to replay the video of our Congress people standing on the steps of congress and spontaneously breaking into song, singing “God Bless America.”

This 9/11 Anniversary, it just feels like too much. Or not enough. This 9/11, the day feels huge, too big for sentimentality, almost.

I honor all of those who have worked, or fought or died to have kept us safe thus far, and all of those who “stand the guard” every day, either in the military or in another capacity, and I pray for our leadership.

But I do that everyday, just as – every day- I watch planes fly across my line of vision and remember.

Perhaps it is because I live in New York, and have FDNY friends, but the truth is, I remember 9/11 every day. When airplanes take off or land at the airport and I note them cresting, or dropping, I remember.

I step outside into glorious weather, temperate and blue-skyed, and I remember.

I stroll through a near-empty grocery store and its spaciousness reminds me of grocery shopping that day, with the grocer’s PA system set to the radio and breaking news, and the people walking through the aisles like ghosts, picking things up and putting them back onto the shelves, in a daze.

When my husband leaves on a business trip, I bless his head and always, always remember that he was in an airplane, in the air, when the WTC and the Pentagon were hit, and what it felt like to wonder and worry.

When my kids -now grown men- wear puzzled or questioning expressions, I note how much they suddenly resemble themselves, from 8 years past.

Peggy Noonan writes about the people who were kids on 9/11/01:

A young man who was 14 the day of the attacks told me recently that there’s an unspoken taboo among the young people of New York: They don’t talk about it, ever. They don’t want to say, “Oh boo hoo, it was awful.” They don’t want to dwell. They shrug it off when it comes up. They change the subject.

I’d never fully realized this: 9/11 was for America’s kids exactly what Nov. 22, 1963, was for their parents and uncles and aunts. They were at school. Suddenly there were rumors in the hall and teachers speaking in hushed tones. You passed an open classroom and saw a teacher sobbing. Then the principal came on the public-address system and said something very bad had happened. Shocked parents began to pick kids up. Everyone went home and watched TV all day, and the next.

My sons don’t talk about 9/11 at all.
When I bring it up, Elder Son more or less shrugs and turns toward his computer. He is philosophical. Terrible things happen. Terrible things will happen again. Such is life.

My oldest is a very placid and cerebral sort who accepts that the world is what it is, that good and evil live side-by-side, that there are complexities and mysteries, and that perhaps the best we can do in the world is be sweet to each other and reject aggression.

This is not a bad way to live, of course. It is admirable, in fact. Until someone tries to kill you or the people you love.

If you ask Buster about 9/11, you get a similar shrug as from Elder Son, and a quick, “I don’t think of it.” But Buster will brood, and sooner or later, we have a conversation similar to this one:

“There is nothing I can do for those people,” one young man said. “I can feel bad for them because they’re in a world of hurt, and if I were there, I’d have done something, or if I were a cop, an EMT worker or something, I could do something. But I can’t. All I can do is sit here and feel bad for them, which I do, but I can’t wallow in it. That would be like making porn of it.”

“Yeah,” another one said, “the truth is, these people, it’s horrible, but all you can do is kiss them up to God and then hope when it’s you turn to face something horrible, you can deal with it.”

Wallowing in it can be like porn, yes. But more interesting is the other comment, “when it’s your turn to face something horrible.”

For kids who watched 9/11, and the Columbine and Virginia Tech massacres, there is not much to say, and much to be on-guard about:

“…I’ve thought about what I would do, depending on where in the building such an attack were to take place. I’ve sat in class thinking about how the windows open, what structures would make the best barricades and how to go about taking the bastard down rather than simply cowering in fear while people are shot to death. I’ve thought of it. We’ve all thought of it, my friends and I, we’ve devoted hours to thinking about it. If you think we’re being cold or cavalier, I think we’re simply aware of the fact that this is what the world is, that no one can ever guarantee our safety – not schools, not governments – nothing is going to absolutely and 100% protect us from what is out there, what can come into our lives in an instant, and change everything. All we can hope is that when stuff like this comes our way, we can do the courageous thing.”

When my sons were young, I was still very much the pacifist-mom. My plan was never to buy then a toy weapon, but then they just created them out of Lego-type blocks, and so:

I taught my children. . .that fighting was bad, that there were better ways to achieve peace and understanding than through fisticuffs. I remember being appalled one day to learn that a neighbor had taught my Elder Son – who was being bothered by an older, bullying, boy – how to punch someone in the solar plexus. “You make sure you hurt him and get him down on the first punch,” she had instructed him, “because you don’t want him getting up.”

I was appalled until the day my son needed to use exactly that technique to save himself, and he did well. After that we invested in a punching bag and training gloves, to good effect. And curiously, the day of the bully never again did dawn. But had it…we all would have been ready.

That’s kind of what I am feeling on this terrible anniversary – that the Day of the Bully may yet dawn again, but I am not so sure how psyche-scarred America will handle it. I know our first responders, our military, our Protector lads and He-men (and She-ra’s) will do what they always do; they will never let us down. But this is a very different -much more divided and thus weaker- country than we were 8 years ago. Our trust in each other has been shaken. I believe we would weather another attack and come together, as before, but is that simply because I want to believe it?

The other day, I awoke thinking of the these lines:

“Everything” is about nothing.
Everything ended with the sacrifice of the Lamb.
All is consummated.
We are forever and always at the Last Supper, at the Crucifixion, at the Resurrection.
Time ended with the tearing of the veil and the rolling back of the stone.
The rest is illusion and catching up.
There is nothing to be afraid of.

Having no answers, I offer that; it is, increasingly for me, all there is to say.

And on that note, maybe a little sentimentality is okay, after all:

Last year I did an early (and very nervous) podcast of the Office for the Dead. You can also find it alone, here

What do YOU remember about 9/11
Michael David Garvey, FDNY, USMC
The Rest is Silence
Most awful to hear

Others writing:
Gerald Vanderleun: The Missing (A must read!)
Blackfive: Another must-read
Allahpundit: Was there and remembers on Twitter – it’s gripping, but you have to refresh back about five pages and read backwards
James Lileks: Just read it
Malkin: Remembrance and Resolve
Ed Morrissey: Project 2996
WSJ: 9/11 and the Good War
Tom Elia: If the 9/11 attacks had been thwarted
Andrew Klavan: Remembering on Video
Deacon Greg: On this Day
Uncle Jimbo: First Hand Account from the Towers
Bill Whittle: “Never Forget” means never forgetting
Jimmie Bise Jr: He wished to have a few more children
Melissa Clouthier: “I’m still angry”
Bookworm: Never Forget
Chris Muir
Krauthammer: You can’t have a truther in the White House
Spirit of America: Names and Faces
Happy Catholic: Just keep reading!
Doctor Zero: Falling Through the Fire
Pierre LeGrand: The Men who Saw it Coming
Lorie Byrd: Never Forget 8 Years Later
Maggies Farm: Video: From then to now
Rudy Giuliani: 9/11 is present, not past

The Worth and the Witness of Women Bloggers
Lenten Reading: Rosary and Inner Healing
Anchoress Shows Up to Give Homily at Mass! Also, Fatso!
Obama, “showing his shortcomings…”
About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Bobfan

    “I think Bender’s Cheerleader should stick around and post!”

    So do I. Thanks for the interesting link, JuliB. I don’t even disagree with everything Hanson says. :-)

  • CV

    It’s interesting to hear that others felt particularly unsettled on the 9/11 anniversary this year. Although I have felt general sadness each year when the anniversary rolls around, I have tended to avoid the television tributes and documentaries, etc.

    Not this year. I watched two of them, back to back, on the History Channel, including “102 Minutes that Changed the World.” For some reason, this year, I was very motivated to pay attention to, and reflect upon, the horrific events of that day.

    In many ways, I believe our country has rapidly become much weaker in recent months.

    And I’m concerned that eventually we’ll all pay a steep price for that.

  • dancingcrane

    Our family will always be grateful that one of my husband’s brothers was spared. He commuted regularly to a consulting contract in NY which was unexpectedly terminated early that September. He still had his tickets. The return flight that he no longer needed to board went into one of the Towers.

    This year, we went to a memorial service at St. John the Baptizer Ukrainian Catholic Church. It was chanted in English, quiet and beautiful, the homily simple. Horror that this was, there is one event greater than this. The Resurrection, to which we look, knowing that God has defeated death.

  • Bender

    Added to the long-standing war against America by Al Qaeda (they were at war with us, but we weren’t at war with them), and added to the long-standing war (1400 years) against the West and other “infidels” by Islamic militants (notwithstanding a certain lull between the Battle of Vienna (1683) and the modern rise of Islamic terrorism), added to these we now have the increasing threat of Iran (which played a huge part in the rebirth of Islamic militancy with the Iranian Revolution) — a nuclear Iran.

    A major reason that we went into Iraq to depose Sadaam Hussein was because, after the devastation of 9-11, we could no longer afford to take the risk of the threat that he presented. Well, we cannot afford to take the risk of a nuclear Iran. Unfortunately, thanks to the 9-10 Dems and liberals, of which Barack Obama is one, we are not only taking the risk, but embracing it.

    Since 9-11, I have consistently held the belief that, sooner or later, I could very well see a bright flash outside my window and that would be the last thing I see before the heat and shockwave of a nuclear blast swept over my home here, right next to D.C. Today, the probability of that happening is sooner, rather than later.

  • Andrew B


    Your specter of a blinding nuclear flash is one that lived with me every day after 9/11. I worked and lived outside NYC on September 11, but took a job in lower Manhattan the following summer.

    Each day I would exit the subway at Wall Street, past NYPD officers with submachineguns and Bomb Squad trucks. The outer walls of my office building were covered in a thin layer of grey dust, a constant reminder of the vast crematorium that sat just a few blocks away.

    I took to carrying an emergency kit with me instead of an attache case–duct tape, gloves, rubber overshoes, a particle mask.

    One day, after about a year of this, my wife said “Let’s move to Florida and stop worrying.”

    And so I write now from a small, quiet, obscure, safe place. I miss New York every day, but I wouldn’t move back there for anything. Several friends have admitted since then that similar concerns motivated their relocation. That, in my own, selfish way of thinking, is one of the tiny, tragic outcomes of 9/11.

  • Bender

    Well, self-preservation is rarely “selfish.” As for me, I’m not going to let those bastards drive me out. Perhaps it has something to do with all that thinking and teaching I do for CCD about the martyrs, who suffered far worse than near vaporization (the true martyrs — none of this murder people and get 72 virgins and prepubscent boys providing you “delights” and feeding you grapes in heaven crap).

    On the other hand, while those bastards might not drive me out, the “Smart Growth” bastards who are imposing hyper-density development around here, building more and more concrete high-rises while eliminating more and more blue skies and true green areas (the contradictions of libs never ceases to amaze), might very well drive me away.

  • That One Girl a.k.a. Bender’s Cheerleader

    Bender dear, we’ll take you out here in the wild, wild, west! ;-)

  • Maggie45

    Wow, you’ve got TWO cheerleaders in the west, Bender! LOL Well, actually I’m in the Southwest.

    Maggie45/aka Bender’s Cheerleader #2

  • cathyf

    Hey, not so fast, ladies — if we are mud wrestling for Bender, I’m throwing my midwestern hat in the pit, too!!! ;-)

  • That One Girl a.k.a. Bender’s Cheerleader

    I think there is enough of Bender’s steel-trap mind to go around for all of us, ladies!

    Thanks for making me laugh!! I needed it. ;-)

  • Bender

    I think there is enough of Bender’s steel-trap mind to go around for all of us, ladies!

    That’s right, baby!
    There’s plenty of Bender and his Latin charm to go around.