Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Things I Will Never Forget

As I prepare to spend a day with some good friends and family, I keep being inundated with the phrase "Never Forget".  And it feels very incomplete to me.  Never forget what?  For the people who were injured or lost loved ones, to tell them to "Never Forget" feels a little cruel to me.  To suggest that they could possibly forget what happened is naive.  I do hope that they have somehow been able to relearn how to live their lives after such a profound and public tragedy and that they have been able to embrace the future.  But they are the last people who should be reminded to "Never Forget".

So, what should I be reminded to "Never Forget".   The fact that hatred exists?  Nope, I don't need to be reminded of that.  I see it all the time when someone crosses the street when a young, black man is walking toward them  The fact that we live in a world divided?  Nope, don't need that either.  We live in a country divided. 

I think that, perhaps, the day we should remind each other to "Never Forget" is September 12th.  And the people we were that day.

1.  We grieved--individually and collectively.  I know that I normally fear grief.  It makes me uncomfortable because I know that I can't do anything about it.  In times of grief, I need a job.  I'll cook.  I'll clean.  Just please don't make me look it in the face.  On September 12th, we openly grieved together.  And by doing that we created unity.

2.  We took care of each other.  Hands were held.  Backs were rubbed.  We touched each other.  Normally, we don't hug each other as often as we should.  We don't hold hands because we don't know what people will think.  Our world is so convoluted that, often, touching is misconstrued as potentially sexual rather than as a simple human function.  There's a reason that we have the ability to feel each other.  I think it is because we are supposed to. 

3.  We showed our personal weaknesses.  We talked about things that we never would have otherwise.  We showed our wounds. 

4.  We accepted help.  This is often the hardest thing of all.  Our first responders helped.  The volunteers helped.  Everyone I know did everything they could think of to help.  And, in doing so, we all accepted the help of others.  Needing help is often seen as a sign of weakness.  On September 12th, we discovered that, if you say you need help, someone will help you.  It may be because I find asking for help so difficult that the acceptance of help really resonated with me.

5.  We were all on the same team.  I have a friend who was as far on the other side of the fence politically as I am, as a person possibly could be.  And we argued.  But, at the end of the day, we always hugged each other and went on our way.  Our arguments became debates.  And then our debates became conversations.  Before September 12th, we were on opposite teams.  Now, we realized, that we just played different positions on the same team.  And we achieved compromise.  And we learned so much from each other.  And we didn't say, "I told you so" when minds were changed.  We just kept working together.  Our friendship became stronger and I still cherish him.

And with all of these things, nothing bad happened.  The fear of touching, the fear of grieving, etc. etc. had no bad consequences.  In fact, they were all good things. Our vulnerability worked to our benefit as human beings.  So that is what I will never forget.  And I will do my best to do so with an open heart and an open mind.


Bernadette said...

Well said! To me, "never forget" applies directly to those who lost their lives. They are gone, but we will not forget them. It also (in my mind) is a promise to all of the people who are living today with the physical and mental effects of having been a first responder, a welder on the site, etc - we will never forget how they gave, at the expense of their own health.

Karen said...

Thank you so much for commenting Bernadette. What a wonderful point of view and so very well said. Today is so deeply personal and so amazingly communal.

Claire said...

I'm glad I didn't read this on Sunday. I have a big problem with the phrase 'never forget'. Of course I'll never forget, all the people and stories from Sept. 11 have burned a place in my memory. It seems the same people running around saying/posting 'never forget' are the first people posting political message of hate and ignorance. The lessons of 9/11 seem to have been lost on our divided country which leads me to believe that maybe the terrorists won. Our current congress can't put their own agenda's aside and learn to work together. They are not leading by example. The media radicals are fostering fear on both sides and it's just a mess. I wish more people would take time to "never forget" united we stand divided we fall.