9/11 came and went this weekend. As it did, I wondered about its meaning. Is the date anything more than something we have come to pretend holds significance for us? Our politicians now invoke it in speeches, as if it is a requisite touchstone that must be given its due. The news media do stories on cue – almost as if they must fill their pages or broadcast minutes to meet the test of propriety. But are these stories anything more than empty filler – here today, forgotten tomorrow? What does 9/11 mean anymore, just three short years after the tragic event? Have we become numb to the scenes of people falling, or jumping, to their death from one-hundred stories up? Do pictures of the smoldering rubble look like anything more than any other demolition site? Have the gut-wrenching tales of New York City emergency workers been equated to the self-indulgent woes told routinely on daytime talk shows?
Can we decipher 9/11 anymore?
I believe that in our society, nowadays, we talk endlessly about events like 9/11 so that we do not have to stop long enough to let the pain seer our souls. It can be a lot of babble, and posturing, and cheap therapy – all to make us feel better about ourselves – all without having to consider what really needs to change. The conversation takes place “out there” – beyond each of us as individuals, where we simply give a wink and a nod to the tragic events and our duty is done.
I faced this very challenge this weekend. Three years ago, when my daughter’s soccer league resumed play after 9/11, the players from teams, along with their parents, came into the center of the field for a moment of silence. As one of the coaches, I was designated to talk about 9/11 and to ask everyone to bow their heads.
On my way to the game this weekend, on 9/11, I wondered if we should again come to the middle of the field. This time I decided against it. This year, I felt that somehow the meaning of 9/11 had washed over us. We had become so familiar with it, that we had lost its meaning.
Perhaps a little distance might do us a lot of good.