Fifteen years ago September 11 was just a normal day. Until it wasn't.
Suddenly it became the most important and dramatic day of my life -- of our lives. It changed everything about the way all of us live and operate.
For those of us who have been in the military community, 9/11 still impacts every moment of every day -- our life trajectories, where we live, how we live, our heaviest sorrows, our biggest moments of joy.
And for those of us who have not served as troops or military families, the changes are not quite as pronounced, but they are still dramatic. September 11 literally changed everything, and not just because of the lives lost, but because of what happened next. On the dawn of 9/11 America was one way. At sunset she was in motion toward something completely different -- economically, socially and psychologically.
This day deserves to be set aside for recognition and honor, for contemplation and explanation. This day needs moments of silence to remember those who are gone and moments of elation to mark how we have moved through the changes it brought. We should spend it telling our children the stories of 9/11. We should spend it celebrating what we've been through and who we've become on the other side. We should find some way to pause, note it and honor it for all the ways it has made us who we are.
September 11 is everything.
Except that it's not.
To look at how America at large recognizes 9/11, or rather does not recognize 9/11, is to see our collective national forgetfulness. If I was an anthropologist, this is where I would talk about how other societies honor their history through story telling and passing weighty moments down generation to generation. But I'm not. So instead I'll say this:
I'm baffled and astounded, but not surprised, by American society's lack of respect for this day and the moments its passing symbolizes. Fifteen years is not that long, and yet we've long moved past using the annual passing of 9/11 to collectively do something special.
I will give society points for not yet throwing Patriot Day sales (that I've seen), although I'm sure they are coming -- after all, check out what they've done to Memorial Day. And at least the news stories get shared and the reminiscing happens on some level. At least it's not (yet) totally forgotten. There are a few documentaries that get replayed annually. We still shed tears over the heartbreaking photo of Falling Man, a moment that many of us witnessed with shock as it played out on live TV.
And some of us do stop. Some of us do mark the day with the kind of notice and pause it deserves.
But where are the local community ceremonies? Where is the sense of respect that should stop people from hosting the annual "trick or treat in the heat" near Anchorage, Alaska -- a sort of early Halloween celebration and fundraiser held while the weather is still decent -- on this day simply because it's convenient, but instead doesn't exist? Where is the collective national sense that we should stop and actually do something to show that we remember on this day?
Some may say acting like it's just a normal day is what we were told to do. We were asked to move forward. We were asked to continue to live our lives and be brave and not let the terrorists win by staying home and changing our economic and social habits.
So that's what we did. We followed those orders so well -- almost too well.
If you're reading this before or on 9/11, I implore you, for the sake of remembering, for the sake of honor, for the sake of passing down these things to those who were not yet alive -- stop, honor, do. Talk about 9/11. Go to a local ceremony or start a community event yourself. Raise your American flag. Participate in the National Day of Service and Remembrance by volunteering. Ask your friends to join you for story telling, or a flag walk or run.
If we fail to stop and honor, we will eventually forget. And that's something we've claimed as a nation that we'll never do.