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The Stream of Lethe

Fortunately it didn’t start until late on the 10th this year.  But I checked Facebook one last time before bed last night, and sure enough, I already started seeing a couple of friends change their Facebook avatars to black squares, or yellow ribbons.  One person posted a picture of the Towers of Light, and my uncle re-shared one of this year’s “remember the first responders” memes.  This morning I woke up to the news that “#neverforget” is trending on Twitter, and a few more Facebook mentions have already popped up.

The thing is, I would like nothing more than to have the world grant me the space to treat the eleventh day of September as a normal day.

I occupy a weird and unremarked space among the 9/11 survivors – I wasn’t at the Towers, I didn’t know anyone who died there.  But I also didn’t just watch things on TV the way the rest of the world did.  I did hear the impact of both planes hit, though, and I smelled smoke for a solid three months and saw the walls and lampposts around me blanketed with missing-person flyers and saw the mounds of tributes turning all the fire stations into shrines.  I went through checkpoints at the end of my block whenever I left the house for the first week when the “Frozen Zone” covered everything below 14th Street.  I bonded with about a hundred total strangers at a vigil in Union Square when someone started singing “Give Peace A Chance” and we all joined in, and I got into a screaming match with a guy when I was standing in front of a mosque and he was passing by, and nudged me and said, “is this where the snake pit is?”

And I would very, very much like to forget all of that.  Those were some dark weeks, and I had about three breakdowns from the sheer stress of what in the name of hell is even going on any more.  Somewhere in a corner of my brain that darkness is still locked down – someone showed me pictures from inside the 9/11 Memorial Museum, and a recreation of one of the missing-persons-flyer walls sent me into a weird shaky mood for the rest of the day.  What I really need is the space and time to let that day grow distant.

But every year the rest of the world – most of whom had the luxury of distance fourteen years ago – comes along again to remember, and encourages everyone else to remember as well, and I’m in a low tense mood until the end of the day, when it all dies down again on the twelfth and people go back to what they were doing.  I’m not talking about the city’s memorial service, mind; or Washington DC’s, or the field where United 93 crashed.  For the people who lost loved ones, remembering them this day brings them comfort and I am all for that.  But the bulk of people saying “never forget” on social media today never lost anyone, never were near New York City that day, never knew anyone there, and some never visited New York City in their lives and moreover never want to.  A lot of people are just using the day to show off their patriotism, thinking that in some way they’re trying to “support” me – without having asked me how I want to be supported.

And so I am reminded every year to “never forget” despite the fact that trying to forget some of the things I went through in 2001 is the only way I’ve been able to stay sane for the past fourteen years.

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