I used to pass a sign every time I left home that simply read, “9/11 We will never forget.” It was a home-made job hammered into a lawn. I was impressed when I first saw the sign as it was almost three years after the day the Twin Towers came down.
It was barely a month after I moved out on my own for the first time when a buddy at work said someone had flown a plane into the World Trade Center. Some idiot in a bi-plane, I figured. Hours later, the office having been closed, I watched the horrifying images alone in my apartment.
I remember wanting to go back home, curl up in my old room, and have it all go away. Of course, I didn’t, at least partially because I knew I had to go to work the next day, and didn’t want to be bothered packing an overnight bag.
Later in the week, or maybe it was the following week, I read a passionate letter to the editor from a woman chastising football fans for wanting their favorite sport back. She went so far as to suggest the sport should never return, her anger somehow letting her believe any sort of “play” would dishonor the victims.
I didn’t lose anyone on September 11th, nor even know anyone who did. So, maybe I’m not qualified to offer opinions on the subject. But, right from the beginning, I noticed an almost defiant call from everyone to “never forget” that seemed odd.
While everyone, it seemed, put a flag on their car, I refused. I knew the day would come that the flag would get old, or torn, or battered, and putting on a new one just sort of wouldn’t happen. Then, I wondered, what would that say?
Everyone was telling each other how this time things would be different. Things had changed forever, we vowed. We had been attacked at home, and we were more united then ever. Most people wondered why we hadn’t attacked someone, anyone, by the dawn of September 12th – myself very much included.
We were nicer to each other, it seemed. We’d let people pull in ahead of us on the road, hold an elevator for others, and were much less apt to lay on our horn in traffic at some guy just trying to get to work on time.
Five years later, things have in fact changed forever, but in none of the ways envisioned. We’re more fearful, less trusting, and even September 11th and the security issues surrounding it are a familiar political volleyball.
The sign I used to see is gone, along with the flags on every car. I’ve read at least one suggestion that this lack of open remembrance is a failure of some sort. That seems as odd to me as a flag on every car.
I’m sure this will be just one of millions of posts on 9/11 today, many of which will offer bold, grandiose ideas to show just how American we are. At the risk of sounding unpatriotic, I still don’t get how a flag on my car or the like proves I care about the tragedy that occurred that day or my country.
I’m rather hot-headed, I’m told, so I may still be the wrong guy to offer the following suggestion. But it seems clear that we were attacked because others hate us. So, instead of waving an American flag, maybe we could prove we remember by showing each other some kindness, like by waving a guy into traffic whose just trying to get to work on time.