This morning, I was listening to the radio. It was one of the satellite radio vintage rock stations, and I’d just finished listening to Kiss’ Detroit Rock City (nope, not kidding) when the DJ came on. She was lamenting that she’d woken up this morning and immediately checked her e-mail and social media. She said she went to Twitter (which’s is now ‘X’, which is just silly because it doesn’t give me positive vibes, but I don’t really use it so why am I complaining… but I digress). The DJ was lamenting that she was ‘bombarded’ with messages about 9/11, and that its was too painful to remember, so she stopped scrolling. She seemed annoyed, conveying that it wasn’t appropriate somehow.
Once upon a time, we Never Forget-ted together.
Instead of trying to define how others did their grieving, remembering, compassioning, empathizing… we gave each other the space to sit with it, feel it, and express it in our own ways.
The following post was first published on September 11, 2019.
I re-read it this morning and realized I still – even having lived through the pandemic and all the crazy social and political upheaval in these years in between – feel the same way I did when I wrote this.
And I’m still workin’ on it.
September is a glorious month here in midcoast Maine.
The air is crisp and, here at The Inn, often smells of the ocean… and apples.
Today began with clouds and showers, not at all like the same date on the calendar 18 years ago. But, now, the clouds have given way to a splendid September day, which is just like that one. And I am reminded.
It seems, somehow, impossible that this much time has passed.
And, sometimes, it still feels impossible that it actually happened.
We each have our own memories, our own stories from that day, and the days that followed.
Where we were.
Who we were frantically checking on.
Where our children were.
When the sun set on September 11, 2001, it felt as if it might never again rise.
But then, and of course, it did.
My memory describes that time as minutes and hours stitched together into days and weeks of blurry uncertainty. It was terrible. And horrifying. And so, so sad.
I also remember something else.
This quiet, amazing kindness that permeated those minutes and days and weeks.
I remember that we had incredible patience with each other, whether at a busy intersection, or standing in line nearly anywhere, or hailing a taxi, or just… helping.
And, with this patience, it seemed that we were also so much more forgiving of each other’s human-ness.
I remember John talking to a good friend of his, who lived in New York City at the time. John said that the intolerant nature of the city – the byproduct of too hustle-y, too bustle-y and far too busy busy busy – had been replaced with tolerance, and empathy.
I remember talking to a close friend and saying I wished people would hold onto that compassion for their fellow human beings. Personal, political, religious, earning potential, Mac or PC… none of it seemed to matter. People came together.
We propped each other up when we all wanted to fall down.
We did that.
So here’s the thing.
We saw it all. It was all real…
The nearly inconceivable, along with the best of who we are.
I suppose it was inevitable, as the weeks and years rolled by, that we backslid. And the petty stuff we said we finally understood was petty stuff, back then, became our big stuff again. Our treatment of each other got a little sharper as the hustling and the bustling spun back up.
The types of hateful things I have heard said between one person and another…
The justification of violence as a necessary element for someone – or even a big group of someones – to make their point…
The vitriol spewed by some yo-yo pundit, and then another, on cable news shows…
And, dear Gawd, the lack of personal filtration and dehumanization as venom flies from our keyboards.
We can do better.
I have seen us do so. much. better.
We all saw the good that we are capable of, including how we can come together, eighteen years ago.
We saw it.
I have come back to finish typing these words at the end of the day. The clouds have gathered again, and a soft rain is falling. It is quiet, and beautiful… the perfect weather for reflection.
The sun will set at 7:01 p.m. tonight, just a few minutes from now.
Tomorrow, the sun will rise again, as it did on September 12, 2001.
What if even a subset of us embraced the idea of doing better by each other, as a way to honor those we lost back then. What if we could intentionally exist, each hour of each day, as if we are actually all in this together (because, you know, we are).
And then we woke up tomorrow…
And got to work.
Thanks for readin’.*
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