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9/11: What about a teakettle?



This photograph is of the last (and probably only) time I’ve ever been to New York City’s famed Twin Towers. It was 1999 and the only thing I remember was how strong the wind was and how big the world seemed to be from all the way up there. The next time I would return to that place would be in 2002, and the world had changed.


My favorite book is Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.” It’s about a nine-year-old boy, Oskar Schell, who is dealing with the loss of his father from 9/11. Essentially. It’s so much more than that. It’s about tragedy, loneliness, loss, and how beauty is still possible amidst and despite these things.

I don’t pretend to have had a special relationship with the World Trade Center, as a place or as a memory, because I don’t. I didn’t lose anybody or any place special that day, but what I did lose was hope. I lost the feeling of security, and I felt several different shades of grief, anger. I felt helpless. At least, for a little while.

It’s been ten years after 9/11. It’s been ten years and in so many ways, it still doesn’t make sense to me. Ten years ago, a heartless action damaged the world in a way that seemed irreparable. How do you pick up the pieces after this kind of wreckage?

But the human heart is resilient. Each time we remember, it’s not a giving into sadness and grief and loss. It’s a reminder of how far we’ve come. We remember because each day that we spend away from that day is one of overcoming. Everyday, we choose to live on is proof that we did not let this tragedy win. In “Looking for Alaska,” John Green wrote, Those awful things are survivable, because we are as indestructible as we believe ourselves to be.

We remember because ten years ago, on September 11, millions of people banded together and found that we are so much bigger than what we thought we could be. In the course of one day, we saw the opposite ends of the spectrum of humanity. And while the human heart is capable of doing horrible things, we know that it is capable of wonderful, amazing things as well. We know that it is capable of compassion, selflessness, forgiveness, healing.

From “A Brief for the Defense” by Jack Gilbert:

“We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit that there will be music despite everything.”

We choose to remember because how could we forget?