Ten years

A confession: I’ve spent the past week two weeks willfully avoiding most September 11 commemorations. I certainly know why, although I have had a hard time putting it into words. Am I not ready to recollect? Do I find it too sad, too ugly? Does it feel too obvious to me?
Perhaps all of the above, or something else, subconscious and intangible, that drives me away from the past. Different things evoke different responses. I blithely skipped past The Economist’s coverage of the anniversary, but I can’t even bring myself to crack open the New York magazine special, and I have been noticeably averting my gaze whenever I spy the billowing smoke on its cover. A decade on, I am not at all inured to the visuals of the event–if anything, I have a more visceral reaction now, in remembrance, than when it actually happened and we all couldn’t stop looking.
My wife pointed out, rightly, that we as a society need to remember, to reflect, to refresh our memories, to celebrate the heroes and respect the innocent and the fallen. I had friends who experienced a far more dramatic 9/11 than I did, and friends who lost their lives.
Perhaps that’s where I am: I haven’t reflected because I haven’t forgotten. I can tell, in vivid detail, the story of that day and the entire week around it: where I was, what I did, how I felt, what I smelled. It was my reality and remains my experience. To that end, America’s insistent media saturation leading up to Sunday’s commemorations are invaluable: no one is being allowed to forget, just as I, and many others, already cannot.
Tomorrow is a somber and important day for all of us, however explicit our reflections may be. My thoughts are with those whose memories are far more painful than mine.

On and after September 11, the Internet was both a lifeline and an outlet for me. My blog posts from 9/11 through the 23rd are available in a single-read archive, and I invite my readers to explore them. For historical accuracy, the girlfriend cited in the posts is now my wife; we have long since moved out of Union Square to the Upper West Side, where we will be spending a quiet 9/11/11 at home.
In 2001 I also published my friend Adam Oestreich’s first-hand account of the attacks, which remains a compelling read. At this time of year it is always the most popular page on this website. (Adam, it can be noted, now works in midtown.)