I’m not going to lie: I have a hard time writing about 9/11.
This is (for the most part) a political blog, but politics seems like a very small topic for a day like today. 9/11 is a messy day, not just because it’s still full of sorrow and anger for so many people who lost loved ones that day or any of the hard days that followed, but because still it is not a closed case.
On a micro level, there are still discoveries, such as the note that a Connecticut man dropped from a window on the 84th floor of Two World Trade Center that day, and which reached his family just before last year’s decennial remembrance, and which finally made it into the press this week. A fresh wound for them and, albeit on a much smaller scale, for the rest of us, too.
On a macro level, there’s a war in Afghanistan that began shortly thereafter and continues to this day. There are still tens of thousands of Americans fighting in that war, being shot at by our enemies and our alleged friends. Their mission, their fate, are still deathly important to them and their families, and should be to the rest of us, too. But to talk about those things today feels off-putting, because it invariably means diving into the politics involved in making decisions about the war and thus getting away from the unity of the day, and it feels cheap, because it’s too easy to talk about those things today and ignore them for the other 364.25 days of the year. (I am far too guilty of that myself.)
On a personal level, I feel like most people are out of things to say by now, myself included. I was working in a carpet mill that day, a month away from starting my job with the Associated Press, and didn’t even hear about the attacks until someone from the office part of the building told me in the break room at lunchtime. I still didn’t comprehend what had happened for another four hours, when I finally got a chance to see a television and the images of what had happened and was still happening, images and events that were nearly impossible to imagine before 9/11 and impossible to forget ever since.
What I remember most is the visceral reaction I and everyone else had, and that was best captured by people who spent that day capturing it instead of shuttling rugs around a mill. To this day, I prefer re-reading what was written then to almost anything written more recently. If you’ve never read Dan McLaughlin’s eyewitness account from back then, today’s the day to read it. For a longer treatment, Tom Junod’s 2009 exploration of the “falling man” photograph is haunting. Feel free to share others in the comment thread.
And feel free to share your own memories and thoughts, even the political ones. Heck, this is still a mostly free country. Just because I had to get this off my chest before getting on with the rest of my day doesn’t mean you have to do the same.
– By Kyle Wingfield