Happy “Where Were You Day!” That’s what this is, isn’t it? This is the day of the year when we nod our heads solemnly, when we frown, when we tell each other we can’t believe it’s been eight whole years—how it seems like only yesterday—and then we perform the custom of his new holiday: We trade stories about where we were when those terrorist planes flew into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and crashed in a Pennsylvanian field (if we remember that there were more than the planes that crashed into the WTC that is).
This is the Kennedy moment for my generation, and a new one to add to the collection of those who came before. This is the moment frozen in time and that is the topic of conversation today. The protocol is simple. You look sad, you express disbelief in the time that’s passed, you share your personal experience—where you were when you heard, who you know who knew someone who knew someone who died, or was a hero. Of course there are people who truly were personally affected eight years ago today, but they probably aren’t treating today like an opportunity to tell stories unless it’s for catharsis sake.
For the rest of us though, it’s how we mark the day. It assuages our instinct of needing to show some kind of solemnity. Bad things happened on this date in history. We survived it. So it’s incumbent upon us to be respectful of those who didn’t. Strange, that we decide to do so by marking our own moment in time.
Eight years later, I’m afraid it’s the only personal connection most of us have to the event. It’s been a long time since any of us have sent books and magazines to soldiers. It’s been a long time since we’ve flown our yellow ribbons in support of troops that still fight—regardless of whether or not you believe in the reasons they do. Gone are the feelings of unity and oneness that prevailed for ever-so brief a time. We are every bit as divided a nation as we were on September 10, 2001—if not more so.
Funny, how it doesn’t embarrass anyone. Funny, how so many promises made in vain and left unkept not remembered at all today. Funny, how when those things are brought up, we choose to blame leaders we elected—making hasty and easy scapegoats instead of taking any personal responsibility. Funny, how today has become about me-me-me. This is where I was when the world changed!
Someone’s mother was in a plane that crashed. Someone’s father was in the building it crashed into. Someone’s son was a fireman. Someone’s daughter was a cop. They rushed in, while others rushed out. When was the last time anyone donated to help the forgotten families? Not really the in-vogue charity anymore, is it? They still sing God Bless America before baseball games—I wonder if anyone thinks about the reason they started doing so?
I was in my car, on my way to work. I heard about it on the radio. I guess that’s important. I guess my role in it all means something. When you ask me, I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you that I’ll never forget where I was, as long as I live.
I’d tell you what that day means to me too if you bothered to ask, but you won’t. No one does. Not anymore. It’s for the history books to sort out now. The ones we write today will paint a valiant picture of those of us who survived the day. Though, when others look back, when those who write the history are removed from it far enough to see it objectively, I wonder if they’ll ask: How did the day that changed everything, really change anything at all?