I spent five days in New York in August. I visited museums, met with friends, ate out for dinner and shopped with money I don’t have. In five days I never got within a half dozen blocks of where the World Trade Centers once stood.
In the last nine years, I have not once looked at the pictures. I have not once watched the videos, documentaries or films about September 11th, 2001.
Because I'm a coward. Because I don't want to think about it, don't want to remember it. Because it hurts dammit, and I don't want to hurt. For nine years I’ve pretended it never happened, because if I acknowledge it, if I I sit down and watch the footage then it becomes real. And I don’t want it to be real. I don’t want to think about the thousands who died. I don’t want to think about how fundamentally it changed this country that I love so much.
The last nine years have been an endless litany of anger, because we never had time to grieve. We ranted and raved and lashed out at everyone around us, consumed by our own misery, our own pain - unable to accept help. We didn’t want help. We wanted to be angry, because being angry was all that we had. We curled into ourselves, nursing our rage and our hatred.
It felt good. It felt good to go to war and watch others pay for how terrible we felt. It didn't matter if they were guilty of crimes against us or not, they were surely guilty of something and we reveled in watching them suffer - because it eased our own pain. But vengeance is not justice. They could hang Osama bin Laden on Ground Zero itself, resurrect him and do it over again a thousand times and it would still never be enough. My grief, our grief, is too strong, too close to be satisfied by something so trivial as revenge. I remember as well as anyone the bone-deep need for reprisal, but vengeance is not worthy of us. Not then and most certainly not now. Vengeance is not justice, and somewhere along the way we have gotten the two confused.
We grieve still, but the anger is fading – not to be forgotten. As trite as the phrase has become it can never be forgotten. There are those who have reached out, who have called for acceptance rather than rage, but their voices are few in a wilderness. We have to accept it, accept that no matter who we kill, how many we blame it will never bring back the lives that were lost that day. And until we do that we cannot begin to heal as we need to.
We should never forget the events that happened on September 11th, 2001 – but we can and should begin to move on from them.