All this week, npr has been running a series remembering Sept. 11th, how Americans have changed, honoring those who died.
I was thinking about what I would like to remember, and what I want to convey about that day and the response.
In the days and years that followed, the 11th of September has taken on mythical proportions. I can respect and honor ceremony and ritual.
Yet I believe there are key points for future generations to remember, things I don't hear very often. For the record, I honor all those who lost their lives that day, in the days that followed because they were first responders, in the two ensuing wars; both military and civilian casualities.
There is a great episode of "Family Guy" where Lois is running for office. You can find the video on youtube under "Lois runs for office". She keeps trying to explain her position, which everyone ignores. Yet then she starts saying "9 - 11" and everyone keeps applauding madly. Americans might not have paid attention to these other parts of the world before, but it suddenly became unpatriotic to not display a flag*. Or to be skeptical of what was being sold when politicians invoked "9-11". It seemed like a disservice to everyone to use Sept. 11th to advance one's political agenda.
So what's it all about? What does it mean?
I was shocked when I heard about the second plane. I turned on the radio, and there was a discussion of coal mining until they broke into "morning edition" with the news.
I listened to the coverage, but I kept working. I checked websites, e-mail lists. At my work, some people went home, some people dismissed employees early, but some of us shouldered on.
I don't think I was the only person. I didn't work as hard as usual, but I didn't spend most of the day in the break room watching tv. Some of my co-workers did, many people did, and that's okay. I wasn't in New York or D.C. I didn't directly know anyone who worked in the Pentagon or World Trade Center.
And most importantly, I knew there was absolutely nothing I could do here in the mid-west. It was a very scary time, most people would have been listening to the news when we heard about the plane at the Pentagon, and the flight in Pennsylvania. We weren't sure when (or if) another attack would come. Yet fear is not a great motivator for decision making, succumbing to fear helps no one.
Many people gave blood, money - I remember a theory that we should buy airline stock, since it would go down the first day the market re-opened.
Simply put, I have a lot of respect who did what needed to be done, regardless of the consequences. The people who did their jobs that day, those who went into burning buildings, who continue to fight in the wars, and those who support the troops. Also those who may support the troops but want to bring them home.
Some of us refused to be swayed from our primary purpose; whatever that is, whatever that means. We refused to spend more energy on what was happening in NY and our capital, that day, and in the weeks that followed.
It's not that we don't "mourn with those who mourn"; but I know there is a lot of evil in the world. There was evil before Hitler, before 2001, and evil still exists. The United States is certainly not the only country attacked by terrorists. We weren't the first, and we won't be the last either. If only that could be the case; if only saying it would make it so. And some of us know that two wrongs don't make a right.
I believe it is just as important, to everyone's memory, to spend as much energy as necessary in a crisis. And that will be different for each person. To continue to do what makes America great, what honors humanity. We can mourn, participate in ceremony, but in the end, I believe not being dissuaded honors everyone.
I don't think there has to be one reaction, and I still don't believe there was a right or wrong reaction that day, or in the weeks that followed. My point is, there was more than one reaction that day; there is more than one reaction to fear.
*I really appreciated David Foster Wallace's take on what happened on September 11th.