Twenty Years On

I slept late this morning and awoke to the milky grey light that hints of a rainy day ahead. I got up, checked my blood sugar, fed the cat. I pondered whether I wanted to go to the trouble of making waffles for breakfast or just pour a bowl of cereal.

Glancing out the window, I noted there was a group of people with garbage bags and work gloves spread out along the road, pulling weeds from the park strip that no government agency seems to want to maintain. Probably a church volunteer group, I thought. Good for them.

My mom and dad are out of town at the moment, so I walked out to their house to feed their cats and their horses. The rain started while I was out there, so I sat under their covered patio for a while, watching it pelt down. It’s been a long, hot summer; it feels good to sense moisture in the air again. I reveled in the low rumbling of thunder.

It never even occurred to me that this was the anniversary of 9/11 until I hopped on Facebook and saw all the posts that begin with “I remember… ”

I remember where I was too, the day the towers fell. Anyone who was alive and old enough to be aware of what was happening that day remembers. But as I’ve written a number of times, I honestly think it would do this nation good to remember it a little less. I’m sure that sounds disrespectful to many, if not outright blasphemous. But tell me: What purpose does it serve to wave the bloody shirt every September and insist that we “never forget” (as if we ever could)? What comfort is it for those who lost someone and those who were near the attacks to see the horrific photos all over again? To read the transcript of Todd Beamer’s final phone call from doomed Flight 93 (which seems to be the social media meme of choice this year)? For traumatized people, surely all this “never forgetting” just reopens old wounds and stirs up the PTSD. And what about the rest of us, like those of us here in Utah, 4000 miles removed from the scenes of the crime, where the “healing fields” of American flags start popping up in mid-August every year as predictably as Spirit Halloween stores opening in the shells of defunct Kmarts? I’m sorry if those displays are meaningful to you, but it’s hard for me to see that stuff as anything other than nationalistic chest-thumping, and haven’t we had quite enough of that over the last 20 years?

Well… maybe we have. Today, a generation after that other September morning, it seems to me that the commemorations are less fervent somehow. Oh, the websites for CNN and NPR are covered in the expected retrospective headlines, and many of my friends are posting their usual patriotic and religious stuff on Facebook. There’s the ceremony happening in Pennsylvania with Presidents Biden, Obama, Bush and Clinton. But scanning through my Facebook and Twitter feeds, I’m seeing lots of other things too… completely unrelated things like jokes and gripes, birthday celebrations, hype for the upcoming Dune movie and discussions about Shang-Chi and the current state of Star Trek. One of my writer friends has written a nice remembrance of that time his dad introduced him to a particular Steely Dan album. Another friend is sharing photos of his Funko Pop collection. Just ordinary, everyday life. Life going on. As it should.

It’s good to see that. Finally.

I think maybe I will make waffles today. And just enjoy the sound and smell of the rain.


One comment on “Twenty Years On

  1. James Cole

    Absolutely fantastic Jason. Thanks for putting into words what I and so many others feel.