When we left the house as the party broke up last evening, I looked up at the night sky. “Look!” I said to two of my companions, pointing up at the yellow cracks in the dark grey clouds backlit by the light of the moon.
“Apocalypse now,” one of my friends murmured.
I laughed, shrugged off his words and said good night as I slid into the seat behind the wheel of my car.
Halfway home, the full moon appeared, shining brightly in the midst of the panoramic inkblot of clouds silhouetted against a cream-colored sky.
Early this morning I awoke to peruse the NYT home page and found the words of the headline burning into the retinas at the back of my eyes: Witness to Apocalypse: A Collective Diary — accounts of “the fall of the trade center told moment by moment and person by person drawn from the more than 600 interviews collected in the September 11, 2001 Oral History Project” — somber reading at best.
We humans mark anniversaries of birth, marriage, and death. The first two are celebrations of joy, the latter a remembrance of loss punctuated by grief. As anyone who has ever lost a loved one will tell you, those feelings of grief and loss tend to resurface acutely on the anniversary of the death.
Every generation has memorialized those tragic events that have served to define it in history. The sunken ships of Pearl Harbor, the eternal flame at JFK’s grave, the black wall bearing the names of our dead in the Vietnam War; and today, ten years after 9/11, the dedication of the World Trade Center memorial.
Certainly, the string of events on that clear blue morning of September 11, 2001, defined the first decade of the new millennium for Americans. At the outset it ushered in a brief era of compassionate service. It changed the way many of us would come to view the world. It created a national paranoia, which still resides in our collective western psyche. To a certain degree it eroded our civil liberties, spurred two unwinnable wars, and drained hundreds of billions of dollars from the U.S. treasury.
I do not wish to minimize the mourning of those who lost loved ones in the tragic events that unfolded ten years ago today. An anniversary is a suitable time to pause and reflect on irreplaceable loss.
But perhaps with the dedication of this memorial at Ground Zero, we as a nation can choose to let the tragedy of 9/11 take its place in the queue of similar tragic historical events, and begin to move on.