No. I haven’t forgotten. It’s something that’s been with me every day for the past two years, except the day my daughter was born. That day in March 2002, the rest of the world ceased to matter. I think about it constantly. Every time a plane flies low over Manhattan. Every time there are a few more sirens than normal. Every time there is an unusually loud noise outside, pausing, waiting for the sirens to follow. Everytime I walk by a fire station. They’ve all got plaques now.
Like last year, I took Lila to the Tompkin’s Square playground. Children are clarity. They’re continuation, hope, sanity. Almost all of our regular morning group were born into the world of September 12th. The planes flew over their mothers and fathers while they were still in the womb.
Lila was puzzled by the church bells. Flight 11, 8:45am. Flight 175, 9:03am. WTC south tower collapses, 10:05am. WTC north tower collapses, 10:28am. News helicopters were buzzing around to the south. Bells change the air.
I walked by the fire station for Ladder 11 and Engine 28 on Second Street again this year. The half-burnt sign from the old truck is now inside and there are six new memorial plaques on the wall outside. Again, there were firefighters in dress blues gathered inside with family. Again I couldn’t say anything to them.
This year I’m not filled with grief. If anything I feel resolute. I understand a lot more. I get the flags, they make me feel proud of being here, proud of my great grandparents for getting on boats and crossing the Atlantic on the rumor things could be better. Here. It took me a long time to come around.
Recently I re-read an article by a professor at the US Naval War College. He was replying to a critical letter about an article he’d written for Esquire. The sentiment has stuck with me.
“I believe life consistently improves for humanity over time, but is does so only because individuals, communities, and even entire countries take it upon themselves not only to imagine a future worth creating but actually to try to build it. I work for the finest government in history, in the greatest country in the world. I am proud to be associated with the best military on the planet. I get up every morning convinced that my job is to change the world, and I remain wholly optimistic that it can be done.”
–Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett
Two years ago I would have bristled at that. Two years ago I was a very different person.