We cling to the memory of 9/11 as though the act of remembering changes something. We look at kids today in shock that they haven’t experienced the earth-rattling sadness of that day like we did. We visit the 9/11 memorial and run our fingers over name after graven name of the people who died because they got out of bed they morning. We hold desperately to a memory–never forget!–as if our memory somehow gives that day meaning or causes it to make sense.
But that day will never make sense. And the kids who are learning about September 11th in history class will never “get it,” any more than I get the assassination of JFK, the attack of Pearl Harbor, or the burning of believers at the stake because they dared translate the Bible into English in the 1300’s.
Our memory might give us wisdom, perspective, and a sense of gravity about life and current world events. It might honor those who died (though that concept has never completely made sense to me). But the minute we put it into a box, turn it into just another social media *thing* that doesn’t touch our actual lives, another proper civic box to check, right alongside French flag profile pictures and memes denigrating our most despised presidential candidate, we’re not honoring that day at all. We’re not remembering.
And as long as we take just a few minutes to remember how sad that day was but don’t change anything about our experience of today, the memory means little. Maybe as much as cooking out on Memorial Day and prefacing the meal with a prayer of thanks for those who died so we’d have the freedom to eat ribs.
Soon 9/11 will become as inconsequential a piece of our history as Pearl Harbor is now to almost everyone in my generation.
As a nation with more memorials and museums than any other, we are incredibly bad at actually remembering much of anything.
If you want to remember, watch the videos of the towers falling. Look at the unsanitized photos the media didn’t publish. Live as though today could be your last–because it could. If you want to remember, do something, whether that means supporting those defending out nation now or volunteering at a soup kitchen because that’s one little thing you can actually do for people who are alive and need help today.
Whatever it means for you, do something. Otherwise you haven’t remembered much.