I can’t seem to answer the most fundamental question about remembering 9/11. Exactly what are we expected to remember?
If it is the terror act and deaths, are we to always remember every act of terror in the US? Or only this one? Are we to forget Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombings that killed 168 people? Or the Aurora movie theatre shooting that killed 12 and wounded 70? Or the Fort Hood massacre that left 13 dead? The Virginia Tech massacre that left 33 dead? Columbine High School where 15 died? And all the others. Are these numbers too small?
Should we forget the innocent victims of madmen with guns? The families killed and torn apart? The single deaths by acts of terror? If we are to always remember the deaths of 9/11, which deaths are we to forget?
Perhaps we are asked to remember the vastness and egregiousness of the terrorism perpetuated on 9/11. But if that is so, I can’t stop at the horrific acts of 9/11. Wars, a constant on our planet, are conglomerations of acts of terror writ large. Death by starvation in a world that can feed us all is a massive form of terror that knows no end.
If we look beyond our borders, can we ignore that every day some 21,000 people – about 18,000 of whom are children – die of hunger? Even though they are not slamming into our buildings, that’s the equivalent of about 100 deadly jet plane crashes each day. *
The number of people who died in the 9/11 terror attack was shocking for our nation. Watching the Twin Towers collapse, a collectively indelible moment in our history. That NYC and Washington DC were targeted on a grand scale was the iconic moment of a generation. Still, I am unable to resolve the refrain of always remember, never forgive, never forget.
When I remember 9/11, I grieve for all who died — but no more and no less than for the senseless, tragic deaths of others I have not met and did not know. And that was only augmented by our response with acts of war and the senseless deaths we as a nation caused and incurred in a reaction that can hardly be justified by collective grief.
We know violence begets violence and terror is a constant threat. So in my memories, I choose to cross borders and grieve for all senseless deaths. I choose to remember that we as a species are diminished by every one of these deaths, but that humans are overwhelmingly good. I choose to remember and stand shoulder to shoulder with those who do not abide evil. Above all, I choose to remember that spirals of destruction are brought down by the essential qualities of our collective humanity — redemption and compassion.
*This is so disturbing. On this page you see the faces of the hundreds who die of hunger in the hour you are watching.