Sunday, September 11, 2022

Time Will Dim


September 11th has become a day one cannot ignore. It is like a huge hole one cannot get around. As I contemplated local stories to write about this morning, I gradually realized that I needed to address the signigicance of this day. It weighs heavily on our shared consciousness.

When I was growing up December 7th was that day for my parents. The horror of the bombings at Pearl Harbor shaped their lives. “…a day that will live in infamy.”

The time is approaching when no one alive has personal memories of December 7th, 1941. It may already have occurred. What remains are dates, times, numbers, memorial markers, newspaper accounts, oral histories. This is the stuff of history books.

September 11th is still so close to us that we remember what we were doing that day, who we were with and what we were thinking. Every year we relieve that litany of feelings and events. 

Fourteen years ago I was watching children play on the playground. It was a beautiful, sunny day. Then another teacher came over and said, "did you hear?" (“Full Circle”, Village Green/Town², 9/11/2015)

We do not think so much about days which bring such horror and grief to other people, or in other nations. After all, we weren’t there. It’s not our story. Those days have been reduced to dates, times, numbers, memorial markers, newspaper accounts or oral histories - - the stuff of history books. They are not three-dimensional to us. They have been flattened by the passing of time.

I’m thinking of the Wounded Knee Massacre or the destruction of Black ‘Wall Street’ in Tulsa, for example. Do we mark those days on our calendars? Do we set aside time to relive sorrow and loss and contemplate the repercussions of those days on generations that followed?

For the most part, we do not.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this as the world has observed the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. So many of us are unaware of the impact of colonial rule on the colonized nations. (Aside from the US, of course.)  We don’t know their stories. Their anger and grief appears to us to be intrusive. Disrespectful.

I’m not suggesting that there is any one acceptable way to feel about the death of a British monarch. I am thinking that there’s a lot we don’t understand if we don’t know very much about British colonialism. Most of what we know has been flattened by the passing of time or altered by those in power.

Someday September 11th will be like that. 

It’s hard to imagine that something that still feels so vivid to us will be flattened and condensed to fit in several columns of a school history textbook. In all that time will we, as Americans, have learned anything? Will we have gained any perspective?

If today is a hard day for you, I honor and respect your grief. If there are other days you wish were observed and not ignored - - I hear you. We need to make more room for the stories we have not known and honor the people we have traditionally forgotten.

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