Fifteen Years Later

“Jack, pick up sweetie, can you hear me? Okay. I just want to tell you, there’s a little problem with the plane. I’m fine. I’m totally fine. I just want to tell you how much I love you.”

Lauren Grandcolas, passenger on United 93
in a voice message left for her husband

 

A most poignant message.

In the years since that bright, sunny morning, it remains as such. It is something that stays with you, or so you would think. The cynics would either say the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan stole it away, or belittle the words. It is probably more accurate to say remembering what had happened that day, and the many who died, is quickly fading away. The emotions are not as frayed, and what happened no longer shocks. Besides, how long should we mourn for those who were lost?

A writer friend, Beth, living on Long Island, had written on this sense in the days leading to the anniversary in 2007. She said in the days after September 11th, it hurt plenty. The smell of death, thoroughly saturated in the smoke, wafting over her neighborhood was a daily reminder. Her husband, on a business trip to the Midwest, was stranded due to the ground stop in air traffic. He came home by renting a car. A neighbor, down the street, had died in the collapse of the North Tower. While Beth and others had prepared meals for their neighbor’s family, it felt very surreal. No one knew what to say.

Beth was reluctant to write another September 11th remembrance piece. She wrote in the days before, what else could be said that hadn’t been said already. The loss, the sadness, the emptiness, the despair. It was writing about the stages of grief. Nonetheless, Beth chose to write another remembrance of September 11th. “If I didn’t,” she began, “it would say I am comfortable my neighbor died on that day. That I am comfortable his wife became a widow, his young children became fatherless. It would say I am comfortable with evil. We should not be comfortable with any of this, whether it is now, or on the fifteenth anniversary or the fiftieth.

It was meant to shock. It was meant to be ugly. It was meant to demoralize. It was meant to divide. It was meant to create fear. It was meant to be a long, never-ending nightmare. The families that lost on September 11th, they are the ones living that long, never-ending nightmare. It is a nightmare we cannot comprehend nor imagine. We cannot know the depth of their grief. And, we will not know when their grief will end.

For the rest of us, our task is relatively easy. It is to remember. Always. If we fail, we fail ourselves. If we forget, September 11th will no longer be a tragic day when so much changed.

 

Note

The “Never Forget” graphic was originally offered without cost by HDWallpapers Catalog. The site no longer exists but the graphic is readily available on the web.

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