Reluctantly Remembering 9/11Carolyn Castiglia
There’s a line from this Barenaked Ladies song I like (I know) that goes, “How am I supposed to remember you when you won’t let me forget?” No, the song isn’t about 9/11, but it might as well be. I really thought, 11 years later, that this was going to be the year that I would be able to get through September 11th without being bombarded by SEPTEMBER 11TH, but alas, it didn’t happen. It might never happen, since everyone has a 9/11 story they love to trot out annually, even Kim Kardashian. “I was in bed and my dad called me and told me I didn’t have to come into work and told me what happened. He then called a family meeting at my mom’s house. I didn’t know anyone directly involved but it seemed so close to home.”
Wow, Kim. Wow. Deep. I understand now why Kanye thinks of you as his Perfect Bitch. (I mean, I know I’m not directly involved, but your love affair seems so close to home.)
At some point, I’m hoping that the culture at large learns to handle 9/11 with humor, like The Onion did today with their hilarious headline, “Man Halfway Down Giant Water Slide Remembers Today 9/11.” Instead, as comedian Joe Mande is pointing out on his amazing Twitter feed today, 9/11 is turning into yet another Hallmark Holiday that corporations can exploit to increase their brand visibility. “Today we remember not the tragedy but the heroes who gave their lives and the families that must endure.” – That’s from The Vitamin Shoppe, which is featuring a 50% off coupon in the sidebar of its page!!! Kind of like when the first tower fell and the second one was still standing, amirightpeople??? #georgeW (I really should start saying “George W!” after all my jokes. It even sounds like a rim shot.)
I mean, how many years have to go by before those of us who did not lose a loved one get to enjoy the beauty of a September 11th morning without it being 9/11, the day of the terror attacks we can NEVER FORGET? I lived in New York on 9/11, and every year I have to re-live all the moments, everything that happened, just because I accidentally glanced at a TV playing in the laundromat or looked at the newspaper. I had to do some laundry this morning, and there it was, the name-reading ceremony in high definition on two screens. I choked up through the whole thing while washing and folding because I’m too empathetic to be able to ignore family member after family member weeping about the children, uncles, aunts, cousins, sisters and brothers they lost. One man lost his twin and mentioned that 46 people with twins actually perished in the attacks – I had no idea. But what surprised me the most were the children. The young children – some of whom never even met the parent they lost on 9/11 – up on the podium, reading the names of deceased strangers like pros and giving praise to their phantom fathers who fell.
One little boy, who was so poised for his age, said of his dad who died, “He wasn’t a fire fighter, a police officer or a rescue worker, but he was my hero …. I hope to be a real man like you.” Another little girl lost her mother in the attacks, the girl was only a baby when her mother perished. She read a poem and mentioned seeing her mom again someday, as so many family members did about their loved ones. I can’t imagine what it’s like to grow up from the very beginning with the spectre of a father (and in a few cases, a mother) who died in the World Trade Center attacks. I could see that these kids were under a sort of pressure to know these people in spite of not knowing them, to love them as they would a living parent in spite of not having more than a few years at most to see them or touch them. And most importantly, I could see that these kids felt a sense of duty to not fail these dead parents, these “heroes” as they were called time and time again. I understand where all these notions come from, but wow. What about offering these kids a chance to not have their lives defined by death? I mean, my life has sort of been defined by tragedy and the notion of a phantom parent, and I know what that’s done to me. I guess that’s why I felt compelled to write about these kids, because in listening to them talk – in listening to 90% of the family members talk, I thought, “What about letting go? What about forgetting to NEVER FORGET?” One family member used his time on the podium to say he hopes that not only will we never forget, but that we should never forgive! Talk about asking for a lifetime of grief and unhappiness. Never forgiving, not being able to resist hate, that’s the kind of ideology that caused these attacks! And this is why it’s so hard for humans to transcend war. For what?
I know about death, I know about betrayal, I know about having to forgive someone who tried to destroy you. It’s not easy. But it’s too hard not to. I hope these children of 9/11 I saw speaking today will one day be able to be on a water slide and halfway down realize, “Oh yeah, today’s that day,” and then move on and have some fun. I hope I can move on from all the tragic events of my past and have some fun, too.