It seems to lurk in the shadows but I always know when it is coming. I bet you didn’t know that it falls on the same day of the week as Christmas. So in January when I look at the calendar to confirm what day of the week Christmas is, I know what day of the week September 11 is. This year it is a Monday. Next year it is a Tuesday. Those years are practically hard because September 11, 2001 was a Tuesday and it is too easy to relive the moments as they fall on the same day of the week as they fell in 2001.
As the first anniversary approached there was a sense of what was the right thing to do, what were the expectations, my dear friend Carol said “do what you want to do?” That was the best advice anyone could have given me. In the first years that meant Emily, Meghan and I were together just the three of us. In the years since “do what you want to do?” is still my standard. I don’t go to the National Memorial on that day because personally I don’t think I can take on the grief of all those people. This year first thing in the morning, I am speaking at a Jewish school in Manhattan, then venturing up to the Bronx to Squad 41 for the memorial mass and then home for Greenwood Lake Fire Department’s yearly ceremony. All of those are things I want to do, all of those things seem like the right thing to do.
There was a time when the anniversary felt like a large dark being waiting to pounce on me. I came to realize what I was fearing was a shadow. Bruce dying in the line of duty couldn’t happen again because it already happened on September 11, 2001. I also came to understand that if I was looking at September 11 the sun/Son were behind me so the shadow was in front of me but if I looked at the sun/Son the shadow was behind me. Walt Whitman expresses it this way:
“Keep your face always toward the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you.”
Since I have been volunteering with the 9/11 Tribute Museum, the weeks and days leading up to the anniversary are a time I worry for lack of a better word about my fellow docents. Those that had experiences that I can’t imagine. Those that saw things no one was ever supposed see. I hold them and their stories close. I pray for peace, rest and healing for friends whom I never would have known if it hadn’t been for September 11, 2001 and our determining to tell our stories. In the Broadway show, Come From Away, there is a line towards the end that states how I now view September 11, 2001:
“We honor what we loss, but we commemorate what we found.”
On September 11, 2001 “we” lost many people and many dreams but “we” found that together “we” could go on. In the past week or so the people of Houston have lost much but they have found each other. At this time in our nation we need to find our way back to being “we” instead of us and them. So as September 11, 2017 approaches, could we honor what has been lost (opportunities, lives, dreams) in our country and strive to find a way to move forward together not as clones or mindless beings but as human beings who disagree on issues, who look different, who believe different things but stand together to educate our children, feed the hungry, aid the sick, shelter the homeless and at least offer a cup of water or a listening ear as needed.
I ask you to never forget and always remember the way we treated each other after September 11, 2001. My apologies to those who were not treated well even then but I believe we can do better.