In the 20 years since 9/11 became a part of all our lives. We have enfolded it into our history, studied and honored it.
Many of us have made a pilgrimage to the site of the twin towers and been overwhelmed by the space and the silence.
I think we are tempted to look at the passage of time, these twenty years, and wonder or hope that maybe, we are almost done grieving this. In reading about how we are processing 9/11 on this anniversary, I came across an article that interviewed the team still working to identify DNA from victims of the attacks. There are over 1,000 victims who have yet to be DNA matched – nearly half of the people that died in the attacks do not have a DNA match to their name. After all of these years, the team overseeing the project hopes to see 1 new name matched a year. Remarkably, two names were matched this year to DNA evidence from the site.
I think our grief of 9/11 is a little bit like this team of scientists still working. Our work isn’t done just because the time has passed. The work isn’t as huge and overwhelming as it was in the beginning – but the effects of 9/11 are still present in our lives. For the scientists, so much of their effort to process and identify happened rapidly in the early months and years as they made hundreds of connections and processed huge amounts of material. The last decade has moved more slowly with continued processing but little new discovery.
Grief is so much like this. Huge, heavy and overwhelming grief-work fills the first years post-loss and as time passes, the loss becomes more incorporated into life and eventually, more normal.
It feels sad that twenty years has passed. It is so much time. It’s sad to me that marking 9/11 has become this “normal” part of our year. It is hard looking back and knowing how much our lives were changed forever by 9/11.
All of this sadness is helped by our actions, by our pause to remember and space given to commemorate.
We will never forget, because we can never forget.