by Tom Henihan
By most people’s estimation a fifteenth anniversary is not a seminal occasion, it is not of a fixed, shared significance like ten, twenty or twenty-five years and beyond that the gap usually grows wider with fifty years, seventy-five and of course the centennial.
With the fifteenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre, the media and many online made the effort to frame the occasion as a milestone. “Fifteen Septembers later” was a common tagline, which begs the question why last year was not tagged as 14 Septembers later or why next year should not be 16 Septembers later and so on.
To challenge the facile, misleading “15 Septembers later” framing of the Twin Towers tragedy is not to suggest that that those who lost their lives in 2001 should be forgotten.
However, the world cannot come to a standstill every September 11, and we must allow life to go on, to normalize, in the same spirit that we would encourage an individual who has experienced a personal loss, to let go eventually, come to terms and get on with their lives.
Indeed, every anniversary of 9/11 is significant, especially for those directly affected by the attacks but an annual public ceremony eventually seems to eclipse the gravity of the original tragedy and appears self-indulgent, an expression of collective self-pity.
To remember and grieve quietly is not to grieve less. Many people would consider it more genuine and personal, more profound.
At this stage, where September 11 is concerned, public ceremonies on truly seminal anniversaries would be more meaningful.
Following an appropriate period of grieving, if a person continued to languish and obsess about their loss, those of my parents’ generation would gently admonish them by saying, “You must let the dead rest.”
That phrase in no way implied that we should forget our dead but that life must come first and the living need our attention.
Of course, it is impossible to forget the events of 9/11 because like the terrorists who carried out the attacks there are still like-minded zealots wreaking havoc around the world. I believe it would be appropriate at these annual ceremonies at the site of 9/11, if some expression of solidarity were offered to the people who are presently experiencing death and devastation in the many Ground Zeros that exist in the Middle East.
These war zones, these places of mayhem and butchery are in many ways a direct consequence of the Twin Towers’ attack or more precisely a consequence of the reckless, criminal actions of people who broke international law, who circumvented their own constitution and lied in order to invade Iraq.
When we engage in memorials, let’s not do it selectively, let’s do it honestly and remember everything.
Rather than celebrating the memory of those who lost their lives in the Twin Towers attack, the constant refusal to allow the wound to close does more to perpetuate a siege mentality that in turn inflames a negative brand of patriotism, the kind of American patriotism that Donald Trump and his ilk are especially adept at exploiting.