What is it about an anniversary? Some arbitrary date on a calendar. A point in distinct time commanding all of us: "Pay attention now." Who needs mathematics to tell us when to mourn?
Surely, there is no wrong day to remember the innocents lost -- and the innocence -- on Sept. 11, 2001.
These were our friends, our neighbors, our relatives. Those we didn't know came alive for us in the glare of shared public grief.
But 10 years later, this anniversary more than any since the first one suddenly feels like something real, which is a mixed blessing at best. A fresh terror threat this weekend. A gasp of official emotion at Ground Zero. The rounded magic of the number 10. Whatever it is, the command is insistent again.
It's a phrase that's been used for so many purposes beyond simple remembering. Politicians have twisted it to promote assorted wars and crackdowns. Haters have hijacked it to defend all manner of prejudice. Others have been elected off it, made money off it and used it to justify all kinds of things.
But here's the central, single fact that cuts through all else: Remember 9/11? Yes, we do. Nothing so bad ever happened so quickly. That is the power of this tragedy. It is part of all of us now. It always will be.
The march from that day to this one has been a decade of cognitive integration. That's how the mind absorbs trauma -- slowly, incompletely, ever on.
People died that day, and we changed forever. For those of us so close with no agendas at all, the memories fade until they rise again. They never go away.
UNANSWERED: Unmowed lawns, cars on cinderblocks -- and now runaway bamboo? Who'd ever thought the skinny stalks would be the nightmare-neighbor tipoff in Smithtown, Islip and beyond? . . . Back-to-school faculty strike at the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University in Brookville? With the final offer averaging $95,000 for a 10-month work year ($133,000 including bennies, the admins say), how much student sympathy could the protesting profs expect? . . . Miss the scorching summer yet? Didn't think so . . . When did the term "first responders" first hit general currency? Before or after 9/11? . . . Is anyone still arguing IN FAVOR of dumping boat sewage into the Long Island Sound? That's moot now, Cap'n. The EPA ban is finally law . . . Ali Lohan? Is that you in there? Even old friends are saying: "You look different now!" . . . Remember, new timetables on five LIRR lines? Remember which five?
THE NEWS IN SONG:
The simplest stories can be the most powerful ones: "The Bravest" by Tom Paxton, http://tinyurl.com/pax911
LONG ISLANDERS OF THE WEEK: THE GONE NOT NEVER FORGOTTEN
There's no one else, not this weekend, not here, not now. When the Twin Towers came down, Long Island paid an especially heavy price. Wall Street's bedroom community. Just a quick ride away. A top source of the workers who make this region go. Our people built those towers, died there and are rebuilding at the site now. Remembering won't bring them back to us. But remember them we will.Email email@example.com
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