9/11 || Why We Remember Even When It’s Hard

I was just in high school when 9/11 happened. Just a naive 15-year-old. I saw the second plane hit, I ran back to tell my mom what was happening. I remember her curling her hair with tears streaming down her face. That day I shared in the shock with the rest of America, I prayed for people, I cried and felt sad. But a month later I was “fine” and couldn’t understand why people were still so upset. The trauma and grief that surrounded me then was too huge for me to understand then and  it’s taken years for me to finally process and appreciate the tragedy of that day.

 

In the last few years I found that I started setting aside the 10th & 11th to sit and watch documentary upon documentary, to feel thoroughly immersed in the emotional turmoil of that day. It’s not that I am “fascinated” or “obsessed” with the tragedy –  it’s because it feels important to me to remember what happened. Watching  documentaries also helps me re-connect to that deep sense of national grief, of unity, a certainty that there is good and bad in this world despite so much gray.

The point is I feel within myself a deep need to remember the horrifying tragedy of that day, the senseless loss, the families and communities shattered, and the nation rocked. And this is how grief works, we are compelled by it to remember, to ache, and to ultimately see the beauty of life and the value of good lives.

I grieve 9/11 now, 12 years later, more profoundly than I did in 2001, 2 or 3.

I remember in the days after 9/11 driving around in Long Beach and seeing the evening streets faintly lit with the candle light of mourners, gathered on dirty street corners to show that they were broken-hearted. It seemed that they wanted to help somehow but the only thing they could do right then was to light a candle, to hold up a light of hope in a world that seemed much, much darker. My water-colory memory of that night has always meant something, stirred something in my soul and made me grateful to be an American.

Photo Courtesy of iStockphoto/AlbertoOscarelliPhotography

 

Now I see 9/11 as a kind of sacred day where I put aside my daily need for Starbucks, close the fun new book I’m reading, pocket my Disneyland pass, and I sit, in silent reverence, paying tribute to the heroes lost.

I don’t know how normal this is, if other people do it, or if some year I won’t feel the need – but I know that I’ve needed it these last few years and I can feel my heart wandering to it again on this 12 year anniversary.

As a culture it seems that we like to steer away from grief in general, there’s the spoken or unspoken push to “get through it” to “let time heal you” – but for those of us who have experienced grief, we know none of those things are fair. Grief goes on for years, decades, and if we’re honest, for the rest of our lives.

I read recently in “The Funeral” (a gem of a book) by Doug Manning that, “A nation that does not honor its dead will ultimately lose its reverence for life.” (44). I think our nation does an excellent job in commemorating the lives lost on 9/11 and I’m so touched by the traditional name reading and ceremony that takes place on that site every year.

Photo Courtesy of iStockphoto/Ulga

 

9/11 isn’t confined to just itself, it has become a symbol of all the heroes raised up and martyred in their desire to help, for the victims of senseless crimes, for the families broken in the wake of tragedy, for the evil in our lives that we must defeat.

9/11 is worthy of your time and of your remembrance. I know it’s hard, but all the good and valuable things we do in this life are hard. Take some time today & remember.

How do you remember 9/11?

Do you find value in remembering significant dates like this?

Molly Keating
Molly Keating
Hello! I'm Molly and I run & manage the Blog here at O'Connor. I grew up in a mortuary with a mortician for a father who's deep respect for the profession inspired me to give working at a mortuary a try. Work at O'Connor has brought together two of my deep passions, writing & grief awareness. In 2016 I earned Certification in the field of Thanatology, the study of Death, Dying and Bereavement. I am honored to be able to speak on these taboo topics with knowledge, compassion, and a unique perspective. I want to sincerely thank you for following & reading the blog, I hope that this is a healing place for you.

24 Comments

  1. Christopher Iverson says:

    Shortly after 9/11, I wrote the following song. I never recorded it, but my tradition since 9/11 has been to sing annually even if it is by myself. I share the lyrics with you.

    RISE UP…STAND TALL
    When I close my eyes I can see where the ruins stand
    The tears that stain my face are shared throughout the land
    I can see the burnt-out boots where the hero fell
    Struck down in the prime of life by the thrusts of hell
    What can I do?
    What can we do?

    Well, I say…

    Rise up…stand tall
    Rise up…stand tall
    There will be no dancing on our graves
    There will be no dancing for we won’t fall
    Rise up…stand tall

    When I close my eyes I can hear the widows mourn
    I see the faces of the children now who will walk alone
    In the ash and the smoke I can see the devil’s face
    Only angels of love can save this human race
    What can I do?
    What can we do?

    Well, I say…

    Rise up…stand tall
    Rise up…stand tall
    There will be no dancing on our graves
    There will be no dancing for we won’t fall
    Rise up…stand tall

    This is the home of the brave and the land of the free
    Sister and brother joined hand to hand from sea to sea
    Feel our will, feel our strength
    Feel our might, feel our unity
    United we stand…
    Together, forever we’re free…

    When I close my eyes I can see a more peaceful way
    That each man and each woman and child work, love and play
    Down on my knees, I pray to the Lord for his gentle relief
    From the weight of the sorrow that fills out
    these hours of grief

    What can I do?
    What can we do?

    Well, I say…

    Rise up…stand tall
    Rise up…stand tall
    There will be no dancing on our graves
    There will be no dancing for we won’t fall
    Rise up…stand tall
    Rise up…stand tall
    Rise up…stand tall
    Rise up…stand tall

    copyright 2001
    Christopher Iverson Music
    words & music: Christopher Iverson

    • Chris, reading your lyrics gives me goosebumps. I LOVE your chorus and the beautiful symbolism it plays on. Thank you SO much for sharing this with us. Beautifully done.

  2. Shasta Thompson says:

    I was also very naive on 9/11, I think I was in 9th grade. I remember getting ready for school and my grandma was crying and very distraught watching the news as everything was happening, I didn’t even know what the pentagon was! At first I didn’t understand what was going on, I just knew it was very very bad. As the day went on and we watched the news coverage in every class, I came to understand a lot more and it was very sad. I also was surprised by the amount of racism that was shown to certain ethnic groups at the time in my own school which made me feel so bad for them as they were just kids and Americans that had nothing to do with it. I think it’s important to remember this day for all the families it effected and the heroes involved.

    • Shasta, what an important perspective. I’d forgotten as I wrote this about all the racism issues – they don’t make it to the documentaries – but you are so right in bringing that issue up as we remember this. The chaos was so real and we all wanted/needed people to blame, but that doesn’t mean we just abuse others so we feel better. Justice is the crucial element to peace. Thank you so much for sharing.

  3. Jenn says:

    I do the same thing Molly, I have probably seen the same shows over and over every year but I feel a need to sit and watch and take it all in, sort of my way to remember or give my respects to those who were lost and those who were so brave that day. I was walking down the hallway towards the living room television when the second plane hit and remember feeling so confused like “what the heck is going on?” I was almost late for a class in my first semester of junior college and didn’t know if I should go or not, I went to class and my teacher told us to go home and turn on the tv and pray, so I did.

    • It’s still remarkable to me how much of life shut down that day. That (as Carrie mentioned below) Disneyland – a place that never closes – closed, that classes were cancelled, that we were all told to “go home”. That is the essence of mourning, to stop what you are doing, make all normalities cease, and to just “go home” and pray.

      Thank you so much for sharing your story, Jenn. It means so much to me to hear you share the same feelings as I do.

  4. Yes Tom, if we feel the need to participate we need to find a way to do that. It’s the healthiest thing we can do with grief, find an outlet and let it pour.

  5. Neil O’Connor says:

    HI Molly –

    Great blog, I will always remember the morning of 9/11. We where getting set for our first really large Dr. Hoy Seminar, the title was dealing with trauma & grief. We invited over 100 guest and had 80 RSVP’s. Pat was thinking about canceling the program due to the terrorist attacks, I decided to stick with the program. My thought even under this tragic terrorist attack, was if we cancel this program we are letting the terrorist win and they are now dictating to us, how we are going to leave our life, hell to the NO!

    I do believe we need to keep remembering major events in our lives. We are not very good about learning from our past, as history will tell you. So the more reminders the better, history has an uncanny way of repeating it self throughout time. May God bless our country and the men & women who keep us safe from harms way. Thank you for this great reminders that life is short & very sweet!

    • I so agree with you, remembering is vital to improving not only our selves but our nation and our world. Thank you for sharing your story of 9/11 – what incredible timing to have Dr. Hoy in town for the first time to minister and talk about grief on that sad, sad day.

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