by Cherszy (@cherszy)
I was ready to go to bed that night when my godmother who was frantically driving away from Manhattan called us (from 8,500 miles away). She was stuck in the middle of a traffic jam due to a sudden burst of screaming people, running firefighters and policemen, road blockades, parked fire trucks and ambulances, and thick black smokes on the streets.
It was obviously chaos – what had just happened?
“The building, it collapsed,” I heard her say again and again across the telephone.
What building? What are you talking about? Why do you sound so scared and in panic? What is going on?
“Turn on CNN,” she finally said.
And there it was – the World Trade Center, a symbol of power, invincibility, and progress, burning and collapsing like a house of cards before my eyes. Like darts flying through a dartboard, planes crashed through the buildings. Debris fell, windows were shattered, and people jumped off from the highest floors of the buildings without parachutes. The fire and ashes gobbled up all that was in its vicinity, including broken bodies that lay trapped under the rubbles. It was really a tragic event to witness even through a TV screen. It was like watching a horror movie unfold into a haunting nightmare. I couldn’t imagine how traumatizing it was for those who were there and for the victims themselves. I was speechless, and surely, that fateful day in history has never left my memory. And neither has it left the memories of many around the world, most especially those of the survivors and of the families of those who suffered an innocent death that day.
Ten years later, the mastermind behind the tragic event, Bin Laden, was killed, and America rejoiced over a large victory against terrorism. Ten years later, the world has returned to its normal busy schedule and people continue to get by with their lives. Ten years later, the grief and tragedy seemed to have vanished as the world dealt with Mubarak’s impeachment, the riots in London, the nuclear power plant explosion and earthquakes in Japan, and the fight against Gaddafi’s lust for power.
But, has the incident really been forgotten? Has the sorrow really disappeared? I don’t think so. I don’t think it ever will.
While the site is now nothing more than another piece of land physically, it will forever be the museum of some of America’s darkest memories that it’ll never be able to bury in time. It will always be a memorial for those who didn’t know that they weren’t going to get another chance to swipe their card at the subway station after they headed for work that morning of September 11, for those who didn’t know that they had kissed their babies for the last time as they left home, for those who made their last phone calls to their loved ones as the second plane hit the building, for those who made the effort to rush back and help a trapped colleague but failed to get out alive himself/herself, for those who cried as their planes crashed into the buildings, and for all those who breathed their last as the walls collapsed on them.
But, ten years later, what have we learned from 9/11? Ten years later, what do we remember from 9/11? Ten years later, how do we remember the tragedy of World Trade Center?
As we remember all the victims and the injustice that befell them that day in Manhattan, let us not look back at 9/11 with anger but with sincere sorrow. While their deaths are clearly undeserved, remembering them is not about being mad at what happened because that does not fully give them peace. Rather, it’s about feeling grief over their loss and about hoping that these victims have finally found peace wherever their souls may be.
Today, it’s not about condemning who is/are behind the attack (Bin Laden and the Al Qaeda supposedly). It’s not about playing the blame game. It’s not about looking for who’s responsible. It’s not about hatred, discrimination, and anti-Muslim campaigns. It’s not about letting conspiracy theories resurface. It’s not about checking the facts of 9/11 nor about questioning the consistency of events. It’s not about searching for the signs of the devil in the figures of black smokes or about searching for presages of the tragedy in dollar bills. It is not even about looking at the disaster as a blow to a powerful nation’s ego.
Rather, today is about the victims and the unnamed heroes. It is about compassion, silence, and reflection. Maybe even about letting go of the pain and letting the idea that our beloved departed have gone to a happier place fill us while keeping their memories alive. Today (and every time we commemorate the anniversary of 9/11), it is about remembering the courage of those who have struggled through the thick smokes, the raging fire, and the fear of not being able to come out of the building alive. It is about remembering the valor of those who possibly fought the hijackers while on board the plane. It is about remembering the heroes of that day who, despite the dangers, helped save someone. It is about remembering all the acts of kindness that surfaced in the midst of danger and darkness. It is about remembering all the help that was extended by strangers to people they only know as someone who needed help. It is about remembering the stories of the survivors. It is about sharing in the sorrow of the victims’ families and friends as they relive painful memories. It is about giving comfort to these people who the victims have left behind if we know them personally. It is about sharing the love. It is about setting aside whatever differences we may have and coming together to remember a part of humanity who has suffered and left us.
It is also about looking at the fragility of life. It is about learning how to appreciate life while we still have it and about being grateful for our existence, for being able to wake up every morning. It is about learning that we should show our loved ones how much we really love and care for them each and every day because we never know when death is only inches away. It is about giving our loved ones a hug, a kiss, and a smile. It is about the greatest lesson that the victims have left us with – never miss an opportunity to show love, even at the brink of death.
But, more importantly, today is about offering the victims a candle, a flower, a prayer, a note, a song, a moment of silence, or a simple thought that they have not been forgotten even after ten years. It is about giving these innocent victims a minute or two of our own time as the least thing that we can offer them. Today, we remember the brief moments that they have become a part of us, even only as faces, names, or simply as victims in general. Today, we give them a little bit of justice with our sincerest acts of commemoration. I think they deserve it.
We all have many unanswered questions about 9/11, but today isn’t the day to ask them. Today is simply about remembering those who lost their lives and giving them due respect and silence.
To all the sons and daughters who lost a father or a mother, to all the parents who lost a child, to all who lost a brother, a sister, a cousin, an uncle, an aunt, and/or a friend, my heart goes out to all of you. While I may have not lost someone in the tragedy, I, too have experienced losing someone very dear to death. I know it’s difficult even after all these years, but stay strong like how they were when they were fighting for survival inside that building or plane. And I hope that all your loved ones have now found peace wherever they are. I wish I can give you all a hug for your sorrow. Here, please accept my virtual hug instead.
This post is for them.
While life goes on after this, they will forever be remembered.
Here’s a song to help you remember about the victims as you give them their moment of silence. I cried while listening to this song as I looked at the photos above. This is “I’ll See You Again” by Westlife:
Gone but not forgotten.
Feel free to share your sentiments or your stories about 9/11 in the comments section or tweet with #10yearslater.