Last year I remember seeing a billboard on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 tragedy. It read, “Never Forget.” As a writer, I wanted to tweak the copy on the billboard to say, “Always Remember.”
But never mind the wordsmithing. No doubt we will never forget; we will always remember that fateful day when ordinary planes were turned into missiles and time was forever divided between before and after.
That day is etched into our national and personal psyches.
I visited the 911 Memorial Museum two years ago when I was in New York City. I walked through rooms that recorded the best and worst of humanity. Images of innocents, photos of every single victim lined the walls; I saw shoes and burnt papers that were blown from the Towers as they collapsed into rubble; I heard audio recordings of the confusion of dispatchers and first responders. I listened to a recording of a man leaving a message to a wife he would never see again.
I saw images of heroism, fire fighters marching up starways to certain death. I saw a staircase that led a fated group of survivors to freedom.
By the time I left the museum my legs were wobbling. I was exhausted but grateful I had paid homage to history. I felt it was my duty.
The next day, I mentioned to a New Yorker my experience of the 911 Museum. She told me she hadn’t been. “I don’t know if I can do,” she said, “It is still too fresh for many of us who live here.”
I understood intellectually what she was saying. But on an emotional level, I am not sure I did until recently.
After all, New Orleanians who experienced Hurricane Katrina, some who were plucked off of rooftops, or who had their houses destroyed, those who breathed the daily grief of loss and chaos for months or years after, don’t need to visit a museum exhibit or a Katrina Memorial to remember.
Just like those here in south Louisiana who have lost so much in the “The Great Flood of 2016“–homes, entire neighborhoods, cars, clothes, family albums, treasured recipes, handmade Mother’s Day cards —and the security of knowing the world is ordered and safe.
None of us here will need to visit a Memorial to remember the pain, the bravery, the wet air heavy with grief and disbelief. Those of us who experience or witness tragedy, disaster, heroism, compassion, we carry that with us.
For better and worse, we remember, it all.
Today, I remember the heroes and victims of Sept. 11. I send blessings to them–to all of us–and pray for the fortitude to carry on during the darkest of times because that is the best of us, the best of our American pioneering, gritty, compassionate spirit.
(If you are interested in thoughts on integrity, harmony and grace, particularly at midlife, check out my book, Tao Flashes.)