Friday, September 9, 2011

Ten Years and Still Counting

I've been puzzling for weeks over how to mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11 on this blog. And I've finally decided.

I'm not.

I tend to be pretty "humorous" here (I've put it in ironic quotes so you don't have to), but I've also been known to showcase a more serious side when events warrant. I don't think it would be out of place for me to adopt a somber, respectful tone to address my thoughts and feelings as the nation remembers the victims and heroes of the terrorist attacks. That's not why I'm choosing to avoid it.

There will be no escaping the media coverage of the anniversary this weekend. From Ground Zero to football stadiums, there will be tributes and speeches and moments of silence. There will be flyovers and prayers and songs. We'll all see the photo montages and the video clips. We'll all hear politicians and pundits and preachers give their perspectives on the events of 9/11. Some of them, I have no doubt, will be deeply moving, others incredibly eloquent. I don't have the resources or the talent to offer something better. But that's not why I'm avoiding it, either.

I'm not ready.

After 10 years, I'm not prepared to express what that day in 2001 meant to me. I can't articulate how it felt to witness a historic tragedy. My head is filled with a hundred anecdotes about September 11 and the days and weeks afterward. But I'm not ready to edit them into a manageable narrative and share them. Maybe someday I will be. But not now. Not yet.

Other people have made it their job, even their mission, to do what I can't do. God bless them, because we need to remember together this Sunday. I want to thank those people for not backing away from the task as I have. Even though the result of so much coverage is almost guaranteed to be sensory overload and tragedy fatigue, the volume and density of the tributes is appropriate. We all need to remember how enormous that day was. If the remembering becomes overwhelming, it will be no more so than the events themselves were.

I'm ready to experience the memorials, although they're sure to be wrenching at times. But I'm not ready to immerse myself in the purely personal context of 9/11. For me, the attacks weren't a storm cloud in an otherwise clear blue sky. There were other things happening in my life in the late summer of 2001 - in fact, a whole series of much smaller but much closer catastrophes. The hijackings eclipsed them, of course. Unfortunately, they made it next to impossible for me to handle my personal tragedies properly. To use a very inelegant metaphor, in September 2001 I was frantically juggling a number of fragile eggs, just barely managing to keep them in the air. And then someone threw a watermelon at me.

I can't think about 9/11 without those other things hitting me full in the gut. I can't write about one event without interweaving it with the others. But 10 years later, I still can't get my arms around the entirety of what that painful, difficult, confused time meant to me. So I'm not going to try. Not yet.

On Sunday I'll fly a flag and light a candle and pray. For the victims, for the survivors, for everything that changed forever on September 11, 2001. But I'll be a spectator to the memorials, not a contributor. Maybe that's best. I'll stick to trying to make you laugh, dear readers. The world needs laughter, too. I'm always up for a good laugh. The other stuff - and the need for closure - will just have to wait.

I'm pretty sure it's not going anywhere.

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