Twenty-one minutes until it is no longer 9/11, and I find I do not want to lose this day entirely to those who have stolen it in an endless cultivation of a cult of sorrow. It was actually Angry Black Lady who helped me finally get here, before the day was entirely gone, and I’m grateful — because I, too, lived that day, and have lived every day of the decade since. I, too, am still in mourning — and not because I am told to be, but because I am.
And so I’ve decided to re-up what I wrote two years ago, as I tried to remember that crystal-clear, blue-sky Tuesday and tried, as I will for the rest of my life, to make sense of it. Everything I wrote then is what I feel now, so here it is, again.
I want to write something today about what day it is, or, I suppose, about what day it was, 8 years ago. I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to say.
I still, eight years later, do not know what to make of the attacks on September 11, 2001 — my heart and my head and my common sense and my fears and then my heart, again, all freeze up in the face of the enormity of it, in the sense-less, makes-no-sense, nature of it. The horror of individuals falling, rag dolls thrown, from windows, the horror of men climbing stairs, loaded, heavy, with equipment and mission, to their deaths, the horror of those whose horror we will never know, the office workers, housekeeping staff, corner-office executives who had a second — did they even have a second? — to know of their deaths, or had a handful of moments to hope for their lives and then came the roar that must have come, a deafening, howling roar, as the buildings began to collapse. The people on the planes, the people on the ground looking up, the flight attendants, the thank-god-I-got-to-work-early eager beavers, the police officers, the I’ll-call-mom-when-I-get-to-the-office forgetful kids. We’re all someone’s kid, aren’t we.
In the intervening eight years, we’ve lost far more Americans to two wars predicated on that day than we lost that day — more than twice the number, in fact. Parents and brothers and wives, and probably some assholes, people who had a second to know of their deaths, or had a handful of moments to hope for their lives, were rag dolls, thrown, out windows, in the air, to the ground. People who, in a very real sense, are also casualties of 9/11. People who were, who are, someone’s kids.
There are days to question your country, days to demand and protest and rage. This is not one of them. I am proud to be American. I am grateful to be American. On this day, I’ll put my demands and my protests and my rage — the very tools of patriotism — in my pocket, to be pulled out and wielded tomorrow. Today, I’ll send my thoughts and my hopes and my prayers out for this country that I love so much, for those at memorial services on this day, for those humping across Central Asian mountains and through bomb-pocked streets, for those who won’t come home but don’t know it yet.