Remembering 9/11

I sat down with my journal this morning, intending to write about the resilience of grass — now that it’s finally rained — and about rekindling my relationship with the mower. 

But my thoughts took a grim turn as I scrawled today’s date atop the page. I had lost track of the anniversary.

There are many I know who make a point of reminding us that “we should never forget.” They bow their heads and wave the flag and I’d like to think they are well-meaning people. But I wonder what, exactly, they want us never to forget.

If they lost loved ones or are otherwise mourning the dead, their remembrance is heartfelt, and I would willfully take a moment and attempt to share their pain.

But if what they remember are simply the deeds of “the evildoers” and George W. Bush’s cowboy response to “an attack on our way of life,” I’d just as soon forget.

Over the years, the anniversaries we observe tend to lose their edge. That is a good thing. I’m not suggesting we stop thinking about the significance and meaning of those dates, but I’m grateful that they lose their emotional content.

We don’t react to “The Day of Infamy” as we once did. Yes, most of those who lost loved ones at Pearl Harbor — and all of World War II, for that matter — have themselves died, so the emotional reaction has dissipated from our national consciousness.

We no longer recall that attack as the day “those dirty Japs blindsided us.” We now understand that the attack was the tragic result of a world so enflamed with hatred and fear that it could not pull back from the brink of war.  

Some day the events of 9/11 — which continue to rub a raw nerve for so many suffering families — will be likewise understood. Only by distancing ourselves from the emotion of the moment can we find wisdom.

The terrorist attack 11 years ago must be weighed with reason, not felt on some visceral level. It was the emotional response, after all, that compounded the tragedy. And that, I am sorry to say, is what I remember most about 9/11.

Yes, I recall the shock of learning how the attacks took place. And yes, I am still saddened by the loss of so many innocents and empathize with their loved ones.  But I am horrified to think how the leaders of this country — and many of my friends and fellow citizens — reacted.


Years from now, when we have gained enough emotional distance, I hope 9/11 is not understood to be the day this country decided to push itself away from the communal table, when it forfeited its chair in the world community.

I hope the terrorist attacks are not seen as the prodding stick that taunted the giant to blunder blindly across foreign landscapes.

I hope 9/11 is not viewed as the day the United States irrevocably lost its sense of self, its soul.

— 30 —

Collected written works  |  Gary Marx


Looking for a Chicago

    Dog in Cow Town

In Death’s Waiting


Living in Interesting


Remembering 9/11

In Defense of


A Minor Distraction

Giving the Computer

    the Boot

The Depth of These


Musings on the Plaza,

    and a World at War

The Tale of the

    All-Seeing Bob

Morning Drive

    on the First Day

Fruit Stands in October

Moving Day,

    Oscar Night