9/11 Reminds Us

Some people say
It’s what we deserve
For sins against g-d
For crimes in the world
I wouldn’t know
I’m just holding the fort
Since that day
They wounded New York
Some people say
They hate us of old
Our women unveiled
Our slaves and our gold
I wouldn’t know
I’m just holding the fort
But answer me this
I won’t take you to court
Did you go crazy
Or did you report
On that day
On that day
They wounded New York

-Leonard Cohen, “On That Day”

. . . . .
For a brief moment, sixteen years ago today, the global tapestry was perfectly interwoven in a spirit of loss, love and commitment.

63 seasons have since elapsed. Time’s incessant march. Families have formed. Infants gulped their first breaths. Children have become adults. Loved ones have passed.

Like a fresh wound, every new sensation in the immediacy of that aftermath brought pain. A nation permeated by grief. We huddled together. Seeking solace.

Those who had gazed from untold heights were brought to their knees. Bound together by a singular grief. Never had so many felt so much for those with whom they’d never shared a moment.

Heroes and victims entered our lives as headlines. Then inhabited our psyches like snapshots of lost loved ones. Forcing us to recall all that is sacred about this fragile existence. This precious life.

9/11 reminds us.

Clerks. Janitors. Sisters. Salesmen. Financiers. Jews. Administrators. Cousins. Catholics. Traders. Runners. Managers. Godparents. Chefs. Children. Applicants. Pilots. Mothers. Executives. Athletes. Sons. Security guards. Stewardesses. Muslims. Brothers. Marketers. Friends. Neighbors. Fathers. And of course, firefighters and policemen.

Three thousand Americans woke on Tuesday and went to work. September 11th, 2001. Ordinary human beings on an ordinary day. Fulfilling the roles to which their lives had led.

By day’s end, all were gone. And with them, the innumerable strokes of genius, tender moments, bold ideas, hard-fought victories, kind words, commercial achievements, charitable efforts, thoughtful notions, works of art and other contributions that each may have bequest mankind.

9/11 reminds us.

We can never truly understand what was lost that Tuesday in September. What may have been gifted to humanity by those three-thousand human beings during this blink of a lifetime.

Oft forgotten are the individuals affected by that day’s events. The immeasurable permutation of loved ones left behind. Forced to gaze upon framed photos of friends and relatives. To relive vacations. Recall holidays. And otherwise attempt to make sense of that day. The friends and family who awoke that Tuesday morning — hundreds, if not thousands of miles from Ground Zero. By day’s end, they were unwilling protagonists in a terrible drama.

9/11 reminds us.

For a brief, tender moment, all of mankind came as close as we can to cohesively understanding the universal truth that life is too complex to truly understand. Like a silken strand pulled taught between two points. We travel from one point to the next, never aware of how beautiful and delicate is the strand upon which we travel.

So we moved forward. Allowed moments to become days, months and years. We coped. Contended stoically with a lack of understanding. Became slightly more human than the disparate individuals we had laid down as on the eve of that tragic day.

Let us not forget.

There is a sixteen-year-old boy whose father died exactly sixteen years ago today. No amount of revenge or patriotism can change that calculus. But our better humanity, gifted as a consequence of that fateful day, just might. Imperceptibly. But still…

We owe it to them. To their loved ones. To all of those who, for a brief respite, brought us together. To those who involuntarily demonstrated to us that life is something for which we must be forever grateful. Something worth fighting for. Especially when lived in this greatest of nations.

Always remember.