One thing among many that strikes me anew with each anniversary observation of 9/11 is my inability to write anything coherent about that day. I am fortunate, like most of us, in that my memories of the event stand at a distance. I watched on TV. I did not live it. Despite that distance, those memories – the bodies falling, the police and firefighters running into the buildings, those buildings collapsing, that unfathomable upside-down mushroom cloud of dust a debris – those memories still sear. Ten years later and I still cannot work my mind around the enormity of it any more than I could back then, standing in a conference room at my brand new law firm, watching it all on television.
In the intervening years, I am continually struck by what I think of as the ‘trichotomy of sacrifice’ that for me defines that day: The group of theologically perverted, unspeakably evil men who sacrificed their lives in the slaughter of thousands of innocent people. The innocent people in the upper floors of the World Trade Center – many of them young professionals whose day-to-day lives were for all intents and purposes similar to my own – who chose to leap from the windows to their certain deaths to end what had to have been unimaginable fear and pain on those burning floors high above the ground. And of course the police and firefighters who continued to stream into the buildings, even when they had to have known that they were almost certainly sacrificing their own lives. Even after the first tower fell. I think about those things and the awe, the rage, the despair and the pride are still right here, in the present. Searing. I think about them and the knot in my gut clenches and grows. The screen blurs. I reproach myself in frustration at my inability to translate the feeling adequately into words; more, at the fact that I am writing in the first person about an event that was so permanently and irrevocably ‘first person’ for thousands of others, but not for me.
And so I stop, and instead re-print and link some of the thoughts and reflections I read this week written by others, who somehow have the ability that I lack to put it all into words.
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