I now live around the corner from the Fireman’s Memorial. The streets were blocked on Wednesday morning; many somber uniformed officials passed by while I walked my dog into and out of Riverside Park.
My walk left me in a wretched mood, and a few hours later, still grouchy at work, it dawned on me why: this is the closest I’ve been, emotionally, to 9/11 in a long, long time. The sadness persists.
Several of my old-school-blogging peers like to post every September 11 about the events of 2001. I do not. I had plenty to say back then, and it holds up. In the years since, I’ve gone about life as any other New Yorker, quietly somber each anniversary. I lost people I knew on that day, too. But I chose not to dwell, publicly or privately, beyond my own quiet acknowledgement.
Walking into the remembrance this week–quite literally–hit me much differently. This wasn’t floodlights downtown leaving me in a bit of awe, this was real people commemorating their own pain and loss. This was my reminder of the policeman’s son who my circle lost that day, and his cousin, the suburban cop, my lifelong friend, spending days in the rubble, searching not only for him but for everyone else that would never be found. The remembrance came to me, and I almost didn’t know what to do with it. I’m glad it made me sad, glad I was able to process it and remember and mourn.
On Saturday, I took my dog for another walk past the Fireman’s Monument, this time with my eight-year-old son in tow. We paused to take in the fireman’s cross made of carnations, still intact and proud, a sober “343” in white flowers in the middle of it, for all the colleagues lost that day. I explained it in gentle terms to my son, then turned away to blink away my tears.
There’s a reason the common phrase around 9/11 is “never forget.” I know I never will.