My parents came to visit Alan and me this summer, and we spent some time wandering around the beautiful Brooklyn Botanic Gardens
. After wandering through the cherry tree lane, we sat down and watched a small group of kids who had clearly broken off from their class as they goofed around and inspected a plaque near a small, dark, twisty tree."No, it was in 2005!""No, it says right here, 2001.""Yeah, it was on 9/11. That's why you dial 9-1-1."Their teacher came by a moment later and scooped them up, hauling them along to the next patch of flora.I gaped at Alan for a moment, taking in what we'd heard. These kids couldn't have been more than nine - so they were born after the attacks on 9/11. They live in a world in which America has always been embroiled in several wars against terrorism. The dark irony of their misunderstanding left me with all kinds of questions. How will 9/11 be taught, especially to those who aren't old enough to remember? What other misconceptions, mixed metaphors, and faulty analogies will we have to confront, and will we have the courage to confront them?
I remember first seeing the buildings fall on TV. I remember how scared we were, and how confused. I grieve for the needless loss of so many lives - I can't imagine how those families must be feeling. I am proud of those who showed so much courage on behalf of their friends, loved ones, strangers, during those horrifying hours and the difficult days that followed. And ultimately, I am hopeful, because I do believe that people are really good at heart and that, as time moves forward, we're getting better.
But there's a lot that I find unsettling about this 10-year anniversary of 9/11. The fact that we are still at war, that it took us so long to find the main culprit behind the attacks, that it's taken ten years for a proper memorial to be erected, that the rescue workers who were so valiant after the attacks weren't invited to the ceremonies today... and even as we remember, I wonder how we will remember.