I have struggled all week with what I wanted to write about September 11, how I wanted to honor this day. I follow Kurt Sutter, Sons of Anarchy creator on Twitter, and earlier today he posted about 9-11.
I don’t want to forget. But I fucking hate that it’s turned into a bullshit meme Hallmark holiday. Let’s remember quietly and respectfully.
— kurt sutter (@sutterink) September 11, 2014
To a great extent, I feel this way.
I think it is important to honor and respect those that we lost. To remember the terrible tragedy that shattered our sense of safety and supremacy (said unsarcastically and meant as in our presence on the world stage as a super power and leader of the free world…which I believe we still are). To pause and offer up our heart-felt gratitude for those who rushed in while and so others could rush away. To say thank you to the men and women who have fought for many long years against the very people who would take our freedoms and liberties from us.
But I am bothered by this day – Patriot Day – in general. Something about it feels off, hits me wrong. Particularly as we get further away. I had forgotten that the other part of the proclamation for Patriot Day was “and National Day of Service.” We posted on our facebook pages – memes – as Sutter says. How did we serve? What kind of meaningful remembrance did we make?
I ask this question of myself as well. I didn’t think – at work, we could have done our monthly community service project as our day of service. But I forgot. I saw a heart-breakingly beautiful video and shared it. But I didn’t talk with my students or teach about 9-11 today. I talked with a colleague about it – about being in a classroom, struggling to make sense of it and struggling to explain it to 7th and 8th graders and how while I’m not a touchy-feely person that day I became a hugger if just for a little while because all of the sudden my on the verge of big-and-bad-leave-me-alone-I-got-this-almost teenagers were just 11 and 12 year olds, terrified. I wanted to remember and then I wanted to move on; a luxury I know I am granted because there are those who will never be able to move on.
Two years ago on 9-11, I was traveling home from visiting with the GrandSner in southwest Missouri, and stopped at a roadside memorial in Imoboden, Arkansas – a tribute to the sons and daughters of Arkansas lost in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I took a few pictures and wrote this post about my feelings that day on 9-11. I ended with this thought:
Tonight when I got home and was looking at my photos, I realized that I could have done so much better with them. And it struck me that it is perhaps an apt metaphor. We can do so much better. We should be doing so much better.
It is not forgetting. It is honoring. It works for me.
I still feel that way. That memorial has stuck with me, and I wonder – how are we honoring them? How are we being so much better? Because to me that feels like the appropriate tribute. And I need to figure that out for my own self. How am I living a life that is better?