Yes, I remember. Vividly. No, I won’t forget.
On a Tuesday morning not three months after I moved away from home and struck out into the world as a new adult, I (and the rest of us) was denied the ability to ever believe that I was really and truly safe in this country; that our politics could ever be as right and good as our government would have us believe; or even that our government truly has our best interests in mind, as its people.
(On a second reading of this, I totally sound like a self-righteous, entitled white kid, so I’m gonna go ahead and give you a disclaimer: #firstworldproblems.)
I live in this city. I think about it all the time—the things that were lost and how quickly we can become a target again. I’ve lived in fear ever since that day. I fear the very possible moment of another attack: of maybe sitting on the train when it happens, having taken the last moments of seeing the person I love the most for granted, of dying alone (I’m also an extremely anxious and overzealous—involuntary though it may be—disaster-thinker, so do with that what you will). 9/11 changed our lives irrevocably, all of us, and most especially those of us who inhabit this city where, what was once a hole in the ground filled with mangled steel and the leavings of 3,000 lives, is now a museum collecting money from gawkers come from all points on the globe and sucking up our tax dollars.
Si ves algo, di algo. If you see something, say something. It’s plastered all over this city: a demand that we pay attention to our surroundings, that we be on the defensive every single day.
I see something, so I’m going to say something: I’m really conflicted. I love Facebook. It’s a nice distraction and a key way to get important messages out into the world. It’s nice to see what’s trending and what people are talking about. But my feed is full of meme-style photographs of the Tribute in Light, hashtagged #neverforget, and it feels like we’re minimizing what happened. This isn’t the most recent cute thing George Takei posted or Jennifer Lawrence’s vagina (which is, somehow, more important than all the other famous vaginas that have been leaked on the internet). It lacks gravitas. We post a meme and we move on. We think about where we were when we found out (I’d just failed my first chemistry test as a college student), and we forget in the next moment. We don’t think about it for the next 364 days of the year, until it’s time to post a new meme.
9/11 affected me deeply. I feel guilty and kind of disgusted with myself for claiming it the way I do, as if it was mine. I wasn’t here for 9/11. I was tucked away in my warm little dorm room in Orlando, homesick and sobbing and full of fear. I swore I’d never move to NYC. I didn’t lose anyone in the attack. I’d never been here, nor had I ever had a desire to be. I had no connection to the city. But there it was: the settling in of a fear that lives in me every day.
This day feels, to me, like it should be one of quiet reflection (yes, I’m aware that, in writing this, I’m contradicting myself) and gratitude, but also one in which we really think about our politics and how our decisions affect others the world over. It should be a day where we commit to making this shitty world a better a place to live in, just the tiniest bit better, every single day. And it should be a day of remembrance—not only of those lost on 9/11, but of those we’ve lost in all the days since, because we have our interests and our soldiers in business we shouldn’t. Yes, it was a terrorist attack, but we have blood on our hands too. A lot of it. Now, that’s something we should never forget, and then we should set about finding ways to change it.