It’s hard to believe we are coming up on ten years of a post-9/11 world. In some respects, it’s hard to remember a time before 9/11 when terrorism was a distant concept more relevant to the Middle East than the United States. It’s a bit like looking into the side mirror on your car: “Things are closer than they appear.” On the other hand, part of me remembers the horror as if it were yesterday. There are some events that literally sear themselves onto your psyche–you cannot help but remember exactly where you were, what you were doing, the moment you heard the awful news.
JFK’s assassination. Discovery’s explosion. The WTC attack.
The shock. The confusion. The initial disbelief that you couldn’t possibly have seen or heard it correctly. The brain’s insistence that your senses have run amok and refuse to process the unbelievable, as it simply can’t be. In horror, we watch the images repeat. Mentally denying the possibility of the impossible. And then the growing realization that this really has happened. The naked truth of the situation.
Earlier today I came across a link of newspaper front pages telling the story of terrorism and the 9/11 decade. The images are immediately recognizable and visceral. I cannot look through them without tears, unbidden, feeling the individual and collective pain and loss in these images. The empty jubilation of revenge, and glimpses of the world’s despair.
The irony of life is that it’s hard to remember–and appreciate–our humanity unless it’s in the shadow of horror and death. This in itself seems a cruel joke. But I believe the cruelest joke of all would be the inability to feel the pain or reach out to those around us. We need to bear witness to heroism in the face of terrorism, and love in the face of hate. We need to mourn our losses, and embrace our humanity.
We need to remember.