There is a brass plaque bound tightly to a moment in time–8:45 a.m.–on September 11, 2001. What came before that moment belongs in a separate column, in a separate world, than what has come after. It’s a simple fact.
In the world that was:
Labor Day Weekend 2000, some friends and I signed up to be extras in a Hallmark TV movie called “Flamingo Rising.” It was an excellent book that turned out to be an abysmal movie, but we were excited nonetheless. Decked out in itchy 60’s wardrobe, hair and make-up we took our spots on the set of an enormous drive-in movie set built just outside of St. Augustine. In the scene, the theater owner’s wife is supposed to be flying over the theater dragging a promotional banner behind her. Then, as her children look on from outside the snack stand below, the plane explodes.
Of course, as we filmed it, there was no exploding plane in the sky–only a camera mounted high on a crane that we were all supposed to focus on. Over a loudspeaker, the director told us to imagine a deep sadness, “Like what we felt on the day JFK was shot…” This instruction was met with blank stares from the teenagers below. “The Challenger explosion?” More blank stares. Finally, he realized that our generation had no point of reference for unilateral sadness and fear.
A year later, that would not be the case.
In the world that is:
Maybe this year’s anniversary will be just a teeny, tiny bit less difficult than the last nine, if only because some semblance of justice was served on May 1st of this year. After a long and painful decade, we extinguished the flame that ignited a horrific time in our nation’s history. But the embers and scorch marks remain.
One day, decades from now, September 11th will be another day on the calendar–like Pearl Harbor Day. People will know historically what happened that day, but they will not have a dark place in their minds reserved for memories they wish they could give away. They will not hear the sounds of those planes hitting the towers or know the shock at watching a massive steel building filled with people disintegrating in a blink. And then another.
Much has been written and said about that day, but what I find the most appropriate is a song that was actually written twenty years earlier about the assassination of John Lennon by his good friend, Sting. One day, light years from now, when my children ask me what it was like on that day. This is what I will share with them.
If blood will flow, when flesh and steel are one
Drying in the colors of the evening sun
Tomorrow’s rains will wash the stains away
But something in our minds will always stay
Perhaps this final act was meant
To clinch a lifetime’s argument
That nothing comes from violence
And nothing ever could
For all those born beneath an angry star
Lest we forget how fragile we are
On and on the rain will fall
Like tears from a star, like tears from a star
On and on the rain will say
How fragile we are
How fragile we are