It crept up on me–September 11th. But for a dear friend gently reminding me, I might have gone about my day as usual–swimming, working, writing, puppy and husband wrangling, etc. Sometimes it seems like I have too much on my plate and I can’t do it all. But then I remember how fortunate I am–despite the difficulties. As long as I draw breath, I have resolved to view life positively, to turn obstacles into challenges, to accept that my wants and needs do not always have to mesh, and to greet each day as a gift.
And then we have today, the 11th anniversary of the devastating attacks and loss of life in the U.S. on September 11th, 2001. And this day is not just a U.S. commemoration, because thousands of people born in over 60 countries around the world lost their lives that day when the four planes crashed into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and the field in Pennsylvania.
How does one turn something so heinous into a positive? I confess that I am at a loss. Because unlike other commemorative days that are celebrated as holidays with picnics and parades–Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, etc.–I and millions of others lived through this event not so very long ago. No, we were not there. But we saw the events unfold as they were broadcast around the world–holding our breaths, until our hope crashed to the ground with the Twin Towers collapse. And chillingly, the experiences of those who were there haunt our memories. In particular for me, the experiences of a Marine I met who had been stationed at the Pentagon at the time it was crashed into by one of the planes–he helped his co-workers flee the exploded and burning side of the building, he assisted the wounded to get to medical personnel at the makeshift aide stations set up on the grounds, and as a person studying to be a priest he prayed for the dead and those who would have to live on without them. And then there were the gatherings of peoples in communities here and around the world to solemnly grieve for and honor the injured and the dead–and to support each other in our shock and despair.
I thought at the time, that I was glad that my father had not lived to see 9/11–he died in April of that year. I still think that now. I do not know that I would have had the heart to tell him what happened. A World War II Pacific Theatre veteran who did not see combat because he was so young, my Dad was given the task to help rebuild communities ravaged by war by rebuilding roads and bridges and such. And yet, that was not without its dangers as the shrapnel in his heel from an exploded land mine was evidence to. But he never complained about it. He only grudgingly spoke of his war experiences. He just got on with it–got on with his life. He was born and raised in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan–the UP–where Midwestern and Michigander stoicism were his trademarks. Perhaps, these are the lessons that I take from tragedies such as 9/11–that we do survive, that we will rebuild, and that we will get on with our lives.
But, we do not forget. We solemnly remember and honor those killed or injured–and we say a prayer for them and their loved ones left behind. And as I tell my friends who have lost a loved one to death’s sting, you are their legacy in the world. We are their legacy in the world. And though the years and decades may pass, we who lived through it are the memory keepers.
Last year, for the tenth anniversary of 9/11, I created a video of three poetry readings that I felt spoke to the devastation, the loss of life, and the will to recover. The talented British actor Richard Armitage voices these poems recorded from earlier performances he had given. There is one image for each poem–none of these images are from 9/11 out of respect for the dead. And the poems themselves were written long ago about different events. But these poems touched me deeply as I reflected upon 9/11–as did Mr. Armitage’s stirring readings of these poems provide me with a sense of peace and calm. So I share my video with you again now–“In Memoriam for 9/11 Ten Years Later: A Compilation Video of Three Poems”, 9/11/11 Gratianads90 (Gratiana Lovelace):