Sunday, 12 September 2004
Interesting times. On the first anniversary of 9/11, we were still in mourning: The emotions were too raw to talk about, the anger and grief too close to the surface. There were formal ceremonies and solemn remembrances, but little in the way of catharsis.
On the second anniversary of 9/11, a little more time had passed; we gained a bit more perspective, more distance between us and a day that altered the course of history. People talked about what they did, where they were, how they felt, and shared stories.
On the third anniversary of 9/11, we're one step further removed. For a precious few of us, December 7th, 1941 is still within living memory — but for most it's an event we read about in history books, rather than experiencing ourselves. Time heals these wounds, by marching on with our without us; we'll never stop remembering, and we'll tell our children and grandchildren the stories of that day… but, eventually, 9/11 will cease to be the central theme of the American story.
My grandparents lived through the Great Depression, and some of the lessons they learned from that time stayed with them through the rest of their days. My parents remember the Kennedy assassination. In the words of the ancient Chinese curse, we live in interesting times — and in a time of historic blunders, there's always the danger that 9/11 will be replaced in our thoughts by something even worse.
History will remember these last four years as a time of missed opportunities — failures to prevent, failures to act, failures of strategy, and failures of competence — but I'm optimistic that we can do better.
We have to do better.