Every year on 9/11, I see the following posted in lots of places "9-11, never forget". It strikes me as such an obvious statement, I mean, who can forget that day? But then I had a thought today that everybody had a different experience that day, different things burned into their minds about what happened.
Every year on 9/11, I reflect on it, as probably everyone does, and then I wonder what is the healthiest way to do it. I always end up watching that documentary made by the french filmmakers that were following NYFD probies for a documentary about becoming a firefighter, but ended up instead making a documentary about 9/11 as it unfolded. I always look through the pics from that day, of the moment after the first plane hit, of the moment before the second plane hit, of the buildings burning, of people jumping out of the buildings, the buildings collapsing, and I never realize the trauma I am inflicting on myself until after I do that. But it feels wrong not to do that, as so many people lost their lives that day, and their loved ones have to relive this pain, it feels like a duty to also relive whatever you experienced that day so that they are not alone in it. Does that make sense?
I also always remember, in the weeks after, seeing firefighters and rescue workers riding the subway to and from Ground Zero, they would be covered in dust and debris and I would just wonder what on earth they had seen and how they were dealing with it. I think we, as humans, just keep marching forward, but inevitably that stuff catches up to you and I wonder now how many of the first responders and people who worked at Ground Zero are suffering the effects of what they saw and experienced.
After maybe the 3rd day after 9/11, the place I was working at re-opened and it seemed that for the most part, the city was trying to function, in spite of everything. But there was this heartbroken feeling among the $#@!-you-NYC resilience. On the news every night, they would talk to people who were missing a loved one who worked in one of the towers, they would have a picture of the person and ask if anyone had seen them to contact them. That went on for weeks, most people hoping that their loved one ended up in one of the many hospitals, injured maybe, but still alive. And then there were posters everywhere of those missing people, hundreds of them, all with the same heartbreaking hope clinging to it - that these people had not actually perished, because it was going to take a while to get actual proof from the massive recovery effort.
I also remember seeing an American flag on absolutely anything you could attach one too. Hanging out of taxi cab windows, off of fire escapes, in windows, on peoples backpacks. That was cool. Solidarity was uplifting.
Not as uplifting were the stories of people who looked like they might be Muslim or of Middle Eastern descent, being harassed. I remember the delivery man from the Indian restaurant that used to deliver to my workplace looking terrified to be out and about in the weeks after 9/11. All he said was that "people are acting crazy", but it was such a bummer to realize what types of things people might be saying to him.
Those are the things I will never forget. Then I think “humans did this to other humans”. That’s probably the saddest thing, but nothing new under the sun. And that is the part we will never ever completely understand.