OK, I don't know why, but I have a problem with all this 9/11 "Never Forget" stuff. What has remembering gotten us? A war in Afghanistan? A war in Iraq? A lessened position in world politics? A new and growing prejudice against a religion of many because of the actions of a few? Maybe it's the politics of hate that I have a problem with.
I'm sorry, I don't want to remember 9/11. I don't want to remember walking down a deserted street with Parker on his first day of school. I don't want to remember the crowds of people standing around cars listening to the radio to try to get information. Walking by the TV stores with the big screen TVs showing over and over the planes flying into the World Trade Center. I don't want to remember trying to explain to my 4 year old why his school was suddenly shut down and why we had to walk home and why those images were on TV. I don't want to remember the desperation I felt trying to get the mile home to find Mollie and to gather my children up and keep them safe. I don't want to remember that my husband wasn't allowed to come home that night. I don't want to remember being unable to reach anyone by any means for hours. I don't want to remember the guilt my friend who worked for Cantor Fitzgerald had because he survived because he was hungover and couldn't get a cab. I don't want to remember sending my babysitter home to Brooklyn to be with her babies in Anthony's running shoes because she had no idea if she could even get home. I don't want to remember the haunted look in my friend's eyes because he walked out of the Wall Street subway station as people began throwing themselves out of the building. I don't want to remember that his wife couldn't come home to be with him because she worked outside the city. I don't want to remember that my brother's birthday was September 11th and he committed suicide two years later. I don't want to remember the neighbor who got her entire law firm out of the building and then did not return home to the little girl she had so excitedly adopted 3 years before. I don't want to remember that two people I knew who crashed in the field in Pennsylvania. I don't want to remember how my friend felt knowing he sent people on that plane, or his friend who put his mother on that plane. I don't want to remember the fear, hatred and paranoia people suddenly had for men with beards and dark skin.
What exactly do we not want to forget about that day? I know what I don't want to forget.
In the days following, while the city was still pretty much shut down. There was a beautiful peace in New York City. People were certainly sad over the massive loss of life, but we were one. People stopped making fun and criticizing New York City and sent an outpouring of love from all over the world. We truly were the center of the universe that first week. Fire fighters and police officers looked for their brothers in the ruble. People baked cupcakes and cookies and took them to the fire houses and police stations. People stopped and waved and saluted to the fire fighters. And people were kind and compassionate to their neighbors. Even the kids in the playground were different. I didn't see a single fight over a toy and when someone fell down, someone came running over to make sure they were alright. When someone said, "How are you?" They meant it. People were kind and compassionate. People were patriotic in their hearts.
But somewhere along the way it feels to me that September 11th became about hate and not compassion. It became about getting Osama Bin Laden. It became about you aren't patriotic if you don't fly an American flag, or wear one in your lapel. It became about "where were you?" So forgive me but if I try to forget September 11th. I will try to never forget September 12 & 13th. I want to remember the calm after the storm. I want to remember the emails people sent me saying thank God you are OK. I want to remember the caring that every New Yorker had for each other and the nearly every other person in the world had for New Yorkers. I want to remember the fire fighters putting the American Flag up in the ruble.
I will never forget kindness and compassion. I will never forget funeral procession after funeral procession. I will never forget the love and respect we suddenly remembered for the brave men and women who fight fires, save lives and keep us safe. I will never forget the love and respect we found for our neighbors--be they strangers or friends. I will never forget a child picking up a toy for another child and handing it to him. I will never forget gathering with my friends in the playground and making sure everyone made it home. I will never forget finding out who didn't.
I guess that my wish is to never forget that September 11th is not about hating the people who took down those planes. I don't need to remember those horrible images. My wish is that September 11th is the day we are patriotic in our hearts and turn to our neighbors with love and compassion--be they next door, down the street or half way around the world. That we remember that caring was the first emotion people felt in the days following and that caring and compassion is what we should take away from this day.