I am going to begin by standing on thin ice.
Memorializing September 11, 2001 is not something I do, at least not in the commonly-accepted sense. I do not hallow that day. I do not reserve a moment of silence. I do not obsess with hatred toward the people who caused immeasurable harm and suffering upon the lives of the victims and their families, but neither do I embrace them. And I do not embrace their equally radical antagonists. I, like many others, have had 14 years to reflect on the event. I am sickened by it all.
People grieve in different ways.
Some people find ways to re-live their grief as though being constantly reminded of it will make them better for the experience. Of them, a few will take that impulse and focus it upon a cause which they believe will help right a perceived wrong, correct a perceived mistake–in short, ‘do something’ for a greater good.
Other people are more apt to absorb the shock privately and keep their expressions of grief private and personal. They too will build on whatever is left of their lives, but do so without fashioning it into a cause. The coping, the remembrance, is personal.
You might be forgiven for thinking this latter kind of griever is isolated in an unhealthy way, wallowing dangerously in some great pool of self-pity–broken, inconsolable. Surely some are, but my experience with private grievers is that most are not. I have known both sorts of grievers in my time, and it is very tempting to subdivide them into these stereotypes. They are archetypal. They make great characters for movies. And it would be easy fashion me into a third stereotype as an observer: the coolly detached emotional-cripple who doesn’t say a sympathetic thing about people’s deaths, injuries or struggles in the aftermath.
I am not an emotional cripple, but I do say this. The urge to ‘do something’ constructive and the appearance of wallowing dangerously in a pool of self-pity merged almost instantly after September 2001. To this day, it still looks like a parody of grief. Or, if you prefer, it looks like a conscientious effort to present that day’s events as martyrdom.
Martyrdom is not only for Muslims. If there is such a thing as counter-martyrdom, I think that is what was presented in the chaos of that day and, for the most part, what we continue to see. It sickens me. And the prevailing laziness which prevents any sort of comprehension of what has transpired sickens me further.
I don’t think I am the only one who feels this way. If that makes me cynical, I accept the label, but I take no joy in it. I happen to think desire to ‘do something’ constructive with the grief surrounding 9-11 never came to fruition, and the reminders of that failure continue to this day. That leaves me with more respect for those people who suffer their 9-11 grief quietly. Such sentiment as I have, I reserve for them.