9.11.2012

9/11/2012

(Update, 9.11.13: I wrote this a year ago. In that year, there's been some changes, including the wife mentioned in this story becoming my ex-wife. Yet more perspective on why moving on is healthy and obsessing over tragedy simply leaves you stationary and in pain.)

I woke up just like any other morning. The alarm went off on my cellphone. I hit the snooze and laid awake enjoying the moment. A cat jumps up onto the bed and walks up onto my chest, begging for some early morning cheek scratches. My dogs begin whining a little, reminding me that there's only a few minutes left before their bladders explode.

The alarm goes off again, and instead of hitting snooze, I go ahead and turn it off. Begrudgingly, my wife and my cat both lift themselves off me so we can begin the process of getting on with the day. I turned on the television to catch up on the morning news and, much to my horror, I was greeted with images of two majestic towers in flames and smoking.

Our nation had been attacked... Eleven years ago today. 

My response was immediate. "Really?" I asked my wife as I watched file footage of the most horrific event our nation has experienced in my lifetime. "Do they honestly need to do this?"

"What?" she asked. 

"Remind us just how painful that day was?" I said.  "Do they need to actually show the buildings on fire? Do they need to show the planes colliding with the towers? Do they need to discuss the deaths and horrors of that day? Are those things truly necessary in order to honor the victims and remember what happened?"

She didn't have an answer.  And I don't think I do, either. What I do know is if my father died in an automobile accident, the last thing I want to watch year after year is the video footage of the collision. If someone I loved died of cancer, the last thing I want to see is video of their last days in the hospital, suffering. 

Two people I know died in Tower 2 on 9/11/2001. I don't want to watch that building burning and collapsing every fucking year. It reminds me that they were in there and they were crushed alive, simply because they went to work that day and 19 crazy zealots decided to make a point that ended with 2,977 exclamation points.

And yet...

It's on every news channel, on repeat. It'll be the topic of political candidates' talking points today. It'll be bandied about by every person in this nation who wants to prove their patriotism or make some point about foreign policy. It's everywhere... Just like it was last year, and the year before, and the year before...

I think that many (too many) people feel that, if you don't stop and make a public display of paying tribute, you don't care. And God forbid you don't care about a tragedy, lest you be thought of as a heartless bastard. It's like all these personal moments are made public simply so we don't look bad in public about our personal feelings.

At this point, we are past the grieving stage. We are not grieving as a nation. We are now posturing; making a presentation for the sole purpose of avoiding the appearance of not caring. 

Paying tribute does not necessarily mean you have to bring up the tragedy of the event. You don't have to remind people of the pain they suffered that day in order to honor the fallen. My grandfather never told me stories of dropping bombs all over England and France after D-Day. Instead, he always told me funny stories about the things the crew of his bomber did. I'd ask him about the war, he'd tell me about the time they put soap in one guy's canteen. I remember very clearly the day I asked him why he never talks about the war. His words to me resonated only very recently: "If you keep picking scabs, they never heal." 

Have we healed as a nation? No. Have I healed as a person? Mostly... I knew people who died in Tower 2 that day. They weren't close friends or loved ones, just people I worked with at one point -- and even now, I think of them and I am sad that they died in the process of going to work just like any other day. It fucking sucks to think about -- and they were just work acquaintances. I don't want to imagine what it would be like to have a family member or best friend lost that day.

And that's the point. Why are we, as a nation comprised by a vast majority of people who knew no one who died that day, bringing this out every single year as if we did? Do you think putting this out there every year in "tribute" helps the families of the fallen move on? Do you think it honors those who gave their lives, either willingly or unwillingly that day? 

It's time to move on. 

And it doesn't mean we forget -- we will always remember the events of that day, regardless of how many "Never Forget" stickers we see on the backs of jacked-up trucks in states hundreds or thousands of miles away from New York. We don't need that to remember... But I feel that the person inside that truck needs it. They need the branding as a "Real American" and "Patriot." They need everyone else to know just how much they care about that day. They need it known. For what reason, only a psychologist can truly discern. 

I'm not saying don't mourn. I'm just saying that maybe, 11 years later, it's time we quit picking scabs and let the healing process truly take hold. Remember always the lessons of that day. Honor those who lost their lives, either by being part of tragedy or by willingly rushing into those buildings to save the victims. 

But there's definitely better, healthier and more respectful ways than by dragging out file footage of burning & collapsing buildings and by metaphorically dragging the corpses of the dead out for public display every single year. 

Here's some stuff you could do to pay tribute to those whose lives were lost on 9/11 that, while they won't get you any attention for being a Patriot and won't make you feel super awesome for clicking "LIKE" on someone's jingoistic image tribute on Facebook, will actually help:
  • Make a donation to your local Fire Department's burn unit and charity drives
  • Make a donation to the local Police Department's injured officer fund
  • If you lost a loved one or friend and know what charity or cause they supported, donate to that in their name
  • If you are so inclined, say a prayer for the fallen. 
  • Discuss the event with friends
  • Send a care package to our troops stationed overseas -- they need movies (decent ones, and send DVDs, not Blu-Ray -- most laptops and station TVs don't have Blu-Ray players), magazines, books, Crystal Light packets for water bottles, and if you're really crafty, you can dye some decent vodka blue and put it in a Listerine bottle. Trust me, they'll thank you.
  • Vote this election season