11 September 2011

Remember, remember

This is a day we are told, in advertisements or (in our case here) on the line marquees of our local Port Authority public busses, to ‘never forget’. It is a day which, rightly, will be remembered as a day of immense historical importance. The eleventh of September ten years ago changed a lot of things. I was fourteen then; I remember the shock and grief and outrage as the footage held us transfixed from our classroom televisions. It left a deep impression even on my fourteen-year-old self with his marginal understanding of international affairs.

However, I think it is important to remember that a great many things – good and bad – did not, in fact, die or change as a result of the horrific events of that day. It did not mark the beginning or the end of an era so much as punctuate certain trends which were already very much at play in the world and had been since the fall of the Berlin Wall: our uncertain standing as the most powerful nation in the world; the existential anxieties and need to redefine ourselves that came with such a position; and the rise of a violent (and itself very modern) fundamentalist backlash against modernity in many corners of the world (including our own). But these are only contingencies, and at some level unreal, as all ‘big picture’ concerns ultimately are. It is easy to miss the small tragedies and graces that befell the individuals, the families, the people of New York City who felt the pain most closely. Host of The Daily Show Jon Stewart and folk singer-songwriter Lucy Kaplansky both captured the mood of the city and its residents well, and they each say it much better than I can:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
September 11, 2001
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

I think and I hope that real, embedded remembrances like these are what end up enduring from the eleventh of September. Not the war, not the hatred or the rage, not the way we claim that it has changed us.

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