This weekend is the tenth anniversary of September 11th, and I am going fishing.
We were there, then, in Kevin’s apartment, two doors down from the South Tower. When the tower fell, we stood in a doorway, the way you’re supposed to in an earthquake, hoping it wouldn’t fall on us. We left that afternoon, and walked through the unfathomable landscape of concrete dust and broken building. Of paper and shoes. Of silent emergency workers trying to absorb the horror of their loss. We walked the six miles to my apartment and moved in together.
This past week, everyone has been talking about that day and its lessons. I can’t for the life of me think of one.
Mere months after the century that gave us Stalin and Pol Pot and Hitler, surely we can’t be surprised by the human capacity for atrocity. And slaughter in the name of religion? September 11th ain’t got nothing on the Crusades.
We think of September 11th differently not because it was different, but because it happened to us. It was our horror and our loss. But I don’t think it changed us because I don’t think we change.
The idea that life-and-death events are seminal, that they make us somehow fundamentally different, seems to me to be wrong. It’s an idea rooted in the depth and intensity of our feelings when these things happen. The death of loved one, the diagnosis of a terrible disease, a terrorist attack in our back yard – they push us so far beyond our accustomed emotional amplitude that we feel different.
But we’re not different. Feelings have the power to change us only when we’re feeling them. They fade, and we return to the homeostasis of our essential nature. And a good thing, too.
The evanescence of emotion is the foundation of human resilience.
For weeks after the attacks, the mere sight of a fireman had me fighting tears. The grief and the memory filled all my psyche’s empty spaces. But only for a while. Time went to work, healing all wounds.
I don’t believe there is one single solitary constructive thing to be said about September 11th., and rehashing it serves only to interrupt the recovery that comes from the ebb of the emotion of that day. It makes us feel bad, to no good end.
I want to let time keep doing its work. I want to return to the homeostasis of life as we know it. Life where evil exists but there’s not much we can do about it. Life where firemen don’t make us cry. Life where, on a beautiful day in September, we go fishing.