Life goes on over 10 years and still the memories remain: the sound of 343 PASS alarms going off underneath the rubble of the Twin Towers; the sight of American flags hung everywhere, from every home on a suburban street to boulders along the highway; the Neil Young song “Let’s Roll” that never gets played anymore.
In an action movie, paper flutters down to the street following an explosion — just as it did in New York City that day. A gray-scale image from a website recalls the coating of gray dust over lower Manhattan. Being aboard a 747 as it skims treetops on takeoff recalls the image of a plane-shaped hole in rural earth.
From what I understand, this is not all that dissimilar from how families feel years after a crime against a loved one goes unsolved. It’s as if we’re frozen in time, even as life has gone on; it makes for a surreal blend of past and present. I try to explain 9/11 to my children, disbelieving that they weren’t even a glimmer in my eye that day; I turn on the news, expecting to see first responders still standing on a pile of smoking twisted steel, passing piece after piece of rubble down their brigade. Instead, new towers are going up. When and how did that happen?
I imagine this must be very similar to the way families experience life, many years after their loved one goes missing or the trail goes cold on their loved one’s killer.
True — our collective national pain has nothing on the very personal pain of one family losing one person. Most of us didn’t know any of the nearly 3,000 people who died on 9/11. Hearing the stories about who they were and what they meant is not the same as getting up each day with a person-shaped hole in your life.
Like ashes, some memories keep their heat long after you’d expect them to go cold. Outsiders don’t always understand how this can be, and often even seem threatened by the fact that a person or a nation has not moved on.
But healing and forgetting are not the same things. To force oneself to move on is not to hasten healing; it’s to bury the anger and sadness, to cover those emotions until the day a trigger looses them once more. When that happens, we need people who are not afraid to face them with us.
I’ve written that what we need is to focus on the connections we can and should make, to come together rather than tearing ourselves and each other apart. Smart families do this, using their angry energy to continue to marshal resources even after law enforcement reallocate theirs.
Although this can alienate — as when a family is overly pushy, or a police force is overly dismissive — a relationship forged with time and patience and understanding can mitigate some of the pain. This is the warmth not of old and painful memories, but of hope.
Added to the Tribal Blogs 9/11 Tribute
Categories: Guest BloggersTags: 9/11