September 11, 2008

Remembering September 11

Interfaith healing service, San Jose, 9/14/01

How many Americans stopped to watch the news this morning? How many went to work, spent the day in meetings, kept tabs on Wall Street . . . how many gave the seventh anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks a passing glance, then went back to life as usual? Of course the country can't grind to a halt, but why is there no real pause? People seem all too willing to push this terrible date out of our minds.

We were at a "back-to-school" event at Monte Vista Christian last night, where we made the rounds of all Kat's classrooms, following her daily schedule. (Of course the periods were a LOT shorter, but we still had to hurry between bells!) When we arrived at Mr. Gott's Social Studies classroom, rows of huge black and white September 11 photos were laid out on the long tables. As we sat, the image that faced me was of a lone man against one of the towers, falling to his death. He had a graceful pose . . . one leg straight, the other knee bent, almost like a dancer. I couldn't stop staring.

Mr. Gott asked us not to reveal what we saw to the kids. When they walked into class this morning, they were greeted by those images posted across the walls; black velvet draped the door and the areas not covered by photographs. It turns out Kat was transfixed by the same image that held my gaze last night. But all the images are powerful. They speak of a moment we never expected, and will never forget. Thankfully no major attacks have happened since (for that we should thank our government, politics aside). But we know it's a matter of time before it happens again.

Watching the news today, and reading anniversary stories in the LA Times and elsewhere, caused me to think back to when it all happened. I pulled out a few slides I'd shot on the day of the attacks, back when I worked for the San Jose Downtown Association. That morning, as Dan Rather's radio voice told us the World Trade Center was no more, I arrived at Gilroy and hopped on a northbound Caltrain. I should have driven home instead, but by the time sanity prevailed it was too late. During lunch we walked around downtown in a daze, and picked up an extra edition of the Mercury News (remember extras?). I don't remember taking the photo of the newspaper carrier, but I bought a paper.

Three days later, San Jose held a midday inter-faith service that brought people together in a way I'd never seen before. A row of patriotic ladies caught my eye (top), and I was able to snap a few pictures while trying not to be crass. The day's Mercury News also captured the feeling of the week (look, a newspaper selling for 35 cents!).

Today Kat, Laura and I talked about 9/11/01, and Kat told us what she recalled from seeing that day as a six-year old. We talked about the towers, the people that jumped, the Pentagon attack, and the sacrifice of the NYPD, NYFD and Flight 93. We did our best to keep the memories alive of the Americans who were lost seven years ago. I hope others did too. As I write this, we're watching a History Channel special that is flooding us with memories. Footage from 9/11 should be required viewing every year, so we never forget. We owe that much to those who lost everything.


Martin Burwash said...

Nice tribute, EL. I must be the most un-American guy wasn't until I turned the tube on late last night and started watching a History Channel special did I even link date to event. I'd been writing down "9/11/08" all day on feed tickets up in the mill, but it still did not occur to me what yesterday actually was. Worked late in the field with no tractor radio, didin't look at the paper last night...nothing to jog my memory..but should it even have to be jogged so soon after the event?

Too busy to remember? Will 9/11 fade in importance or in our generation's memory just like December 7 has?

Not good.

Martin Burwash

KWG said...

Thank you for the bittersweet but heartwarming post, Elrond. I'm so glad you talk to your daughter about that day. It is important to keep the memory alive of those who lost their lives that day, and those lost before and since fighting for our freedom.


I concur with Martin's assessment, El. Thank you for posting this tribute. And most importantly, I respect you for taking the time to sit down and discuss the events and repurcussions of 9-11 as a family.

Chris Goepel ...