Monday, September 12, 2011

To remember without malice, to forget without indifference

Yesterday was bright and warm, and my daughter stood for seven hours amongst several choirs, as part of a remembrance ceremony on the ten year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. All week, I'd been wrestling with a nagging question - do we really want to remember? I mean, is remembering horror a good thing?

It's a question no one wants to ask aloud because it evokes instant anger from the listener. I experienced that anger myself. It's as though not formally, not publically, remembering is somehow disloyal. Like breaking the vigil, forgetting those who were lost.

During the ceremony, a few hundred of us sat on the grass in a park and listened to multiple lecters read the names of the victims. In listening, I heard the names - first, middle, and last - of myself and all of my children in there, like in a word search puzzle. So many names...

And then there were religious leaders from the major faith communities here who spoke, prayed and sang - Jewish, Muslim, and Christian. The Imam, when it was his turn to speak, thanked the organizers for including them in the service.

What a strange mix of emotion in myself, and in the crowd, at that moment. Something primitive in me was almost angry, almost bristled against this...what, affront? Something else felt fear for them, for their safety in this place, fear that someone would say or do something ignorant to them.

The Imam asked us to stand, and I was quick to get my boys on their feet, and self-concious about it. The great majority of the people stood respectfully while the prayer was so beautifully sung. One man turned his back to the singer, keeping his seat, stone-faced. A boy of 8 or 9 sat in his lap, trying to play with him, seeming not to notice the man's anger.

I couldn't help but wonder how whatever was inside the man would come to shape whatever is inside the boy. Another man lay on his back in the grass, hands under his head, not moving an inch in what looked like silent defiance.

Two among hundreds are hardly worth mention. The people were moved and reverent. The choirs, my daughter, sang beautifully. Small children played happily in the grass. Dogs wagged their tails and sniffed one another excitedly. And the sun moved slowly across the clear early autumn sky. The ceremony was a real production - equal parts gravity and syrup - very American.

We are the affliction. We are the salve. We are war and we are mercy.

Salvation is...

1 comment:

  1. "To remember without malice, to forget without indifference"
    that's how it should be!
    I think the innocent victims of such a horrible and tragic event should be always remembered. The new beautiful architectural design in ground zero in New York and artificial waterfalls which all victims' name are carved around them, is the best idea and of great concept for remembrance of this event and all people who lost their lives in this place.


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