Cross-posted from

For the record: I had been at my job only six weeks when I came to work on that beautiful, crystalline September morning. After getting coffee in the cafeteria, I came to the newsroom and saw people gathered at the northwest corner of the 19th floor. It was happening. I called my boss who was in London and told him that apparently a small plane had hit the World Trade Center. It was happening. No one knew that early how deep, long and dark was the shadow about to spread over this city and this country. Within an hour we watched the tours fall. It had happened.

I wonder, if we lived in a culture that marked significant chunks of time in eight year cycles instead of ten – call it on ‘Octade’ – would we finally be moving on from the annual re-visitation of grief that takes place every September 11? Would we have managed to stop calling the site of the World Trade Center ‘Ground Zero,’ as if there has never been another one? Or will tourists forever after be asking those of us who live here for directions to Ground Zero, with their strange mix of fascination, awe and relief they can go home soon, having snapped a shot of themselves there where the unimaginable struck and America changed for the worse.

Yes, the worse. It is my opinion that a once-in-a-nation’s-lifetime opportunity to unite and finally, truly, be one people, was squandered in favor of political power and advantage. Muslims were blamed for the acts of fanatics, while I have yet to hear Christianity being held accountable for the terror at women’s health clinics or the slaughter brought by Timothy McVeigh (we’ll discard for the sake of this argument the centuries of murder and oceans of blood already spilled by that religion, of which I count myself a tenuous member). We saw a surplus of treasure taken by the truckload from average Americans and transferred with glee to those who already have more than they will ever spend. (Note to the woman I saw on a TV segment decrying the “distribution of wealth” (surely the poor sap meant “redistribution,” even as she declared herself a “constitutional conservative”) – it has already happened, and your pockets were the ones that have been emptied.) We saw two wars started, while Americans were told to go shopping. I actually did! I bought a new sofa the same week we first bombed Afghanistan, and while I must admit it felt good, in hindsight it is disgraceful.

By the way, LGBT people died that day, quite a few of us, but you won’t hear Matt Lauer mentioning that, even when the mother of Todd Beamer is interviewed.

We cling to our grief. We cherish not just the memories of those we’ve loved and lost, but, if we are honest, the very comforting self-indulgence of our own mourning, which we dutifully resurrect each year. At some point it will end. How many people mark the bombing of Pearl Harbor every year? Not many, and as with that attack on our country, so, too, 9/11 will dwindle year after year until only a handful of us who were here are alive to pay tribute.

There’s nothing wrong with paying tribute, nothing wrong with remembering. I remember a good many friends and one dear partner who died in the AIDS years. Oh, right, we don’t really hear much about that anymore. We’re beyond it. The plague has moved on to Africa, and we have moved on to an even more shining moment of horror, something much more traditional and family-oriented. Something the kids can enjoy.

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