Never Forget

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9/11 is a day about fear. 

Not for all of us, obviously. The images of firemen running into crumbling towers to rescue whoever they could are among the finest in our nation’s history, but they are not the enduring legacy of the terrorist attacks. If you’d like to know the true legacy of 9/11, you need look no further than any recent news piece on the NSA, the NRA, IED’s, the CIA, Gitmo or any other stuffily abbreviated word trending on Twitter right now. These little stretches in what we consider to be right so that we can consider ourselves safe. 

9/11 made us afraid, and that fear is now part of our legacy. It’s part of the American framework. We bluster it up and make it look like power, but it’s not. Not really. 

Of course I remember where I was when the first plane hit. I was sitting next to my sister, who was celebrating her birthday. Pity poor Emily, whose birthday has been swallowed whole by our national travesty. 

Well, it has for most people. Not my family. I think, for us, 9/11 will always be Emily’s birthday. Insensitive, perhaps, but I rather like the idea that this day is not one about fear, but love. It’s not about all we lost, but it’s about what we have. 

Perhaps having my sister’s birthday land on 9/11 makes it land harder for me. I feel this need to stand against the tide, and insist that our country not let itself be shaped by fear. If I can find it within myself to let this day be about my sister—my best friend, who I miss every single day—then surely the rest of us can too. We can focus on the things that actually provide security. We can. Can’t we? We can. 

So, yes, never forget. But. Do not let remembrance be a substitute for healing. We’ve all got tragedies. The things that mark us. And we have, all of us, the choice of whether to focus on the pain, and let our lives be shaped by the fear of our neighbor, the fear of loss. It’s a way to live and—here’s the thing—it works. It’s not a fun way to live, but it does work. 

Or you can focus on the birthdays. 

Happy birthday, Emily. 

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