Sunday, September 7, 2008


(Note: This is a reprint from my post written last year -- I felt it appropriate to recognize the anniversary of 9/11)


As the anniversary of 9/11/01 approaches, people seem to have mixed opinions on how to properly recognize it. Some believe it is time to move on, that the 5th anniversary last year provided a sense of closure for Americans, and that it is pointless to dwell on the past. Others believe that, given the magnitude of our loss on that day, we must always do something to remember the victims.

I side with the "recognize the day" camp. While we don't necessarily need to re-live all of the grief from that event, remembering the emotion and the victims of that day in whatever way one sees fit seems more than appropriate. I consider one person dying before their time a tragedy; 2,974 dying in one day from a series of willful attacks is still an unfathomable tragedy. Even though it happened before our eyes, it is still difficult to comprehend how many people 2,974 is, and by multipication how many millions of lives were directly affected by it.

Maybe a better way to recognize the day is to think about the survivors, particularly the people who the victims left behind. A number from 9/11 that has always hit close to home for me is 102. In addition to that being the number of minutes between the first plane crashing and the last tower falling, it has another meaning. 102 fathers of unborn children died on 9/11. 102 fathers went to work that morning, some knowing that their mate was pregnant and others still awaiting the good news, but never came home. 102 children were born in the nine months following 9/11 who would never get to meet their father. While 9/11 is six years old this week and the memories are slowly fading, and the perished are more gently resting in peace in our minds, many things about that day live on. Those 102 children are perfect examples.

It is poignant and fitting that this time of year, maybe on the very day of the anniversary of their fathers' passing, most of those 102 children are going to Kindergarten for the first time. Their mothers are packing their backpacks, the children are joining the other neighborhood kids at the bus stop, and these little tykes are boarding the yellow bus for their first ever school day. It is a shame their fathers won't share in the day. They weren't there to give the kid a pep talk on what school would be like, they won't be there to see the child step onto the bus, and the won't be there at dinner to ask how the day went. The children may realize their fathers would have been there if they could, but maybe it is too early in life for them to comprehend all of that.

This routine will happen 102 times. To us, 9/11 has largely become reduced to numbers, statistics, in addition to political rhetoric. But to that father who wasn't there on the first day of school, and to the mother who didn't have the father's active involvement preparing for it, and to the child who only knows that something unfortunate happened to their father and he isn't there, 9/11 was everything.

To me, that is why we should never forget 9/11. As these Kindergartners who are taking a big step forward demonstrate, 9/11 will always be part of our identity. Like those children, we move on to a brighter day knowing all the while that what happened will always be part of our personal and national fabric.

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