How do you never forget?
I’m speaking of course of today’s date. It’s September 11. I’m fairly certain that you could tell me exactly where you were 17 years ago, as can I.
The moment is seared into the national consciousness. It sparked the longest war in U.S. history.
As a country, we pledged to never forget, but what does that really mean?
I’ve been thinking a lot about this because I’m ramping up for a trip to Normandy, France and I’m having to read history books and watch movies to learn about a history that is fading. All those that fought are passing away. That generation pledged to never forget as well, but time has faded the memories.
I’m sure that “never forget” means different things for different people. Don and I have have done many memorial shows where we play sound from that horrific day and talk about its meaning. For me, it was mostly about the events in the abstract and their historic and political context. We visited the site of Ground Zero and paid our respects when it was still just a giant hole scarring the earth.
But it wasn’t until a recent trip to New York that the phrase “never forget” crystallized for me. I decided to visit the 9/11 memorial. It was profoundly moving. I managed to keep things together until I rounded one corner of the underground museum and started to hear the voicemails.
There were portraits of people of all colors and nationalities on the walls and the sounds of their final messages played through speakers. I immediately started to cry. As I slowly moved through that space, I came to terms with what “never forget” means to me.
It means I need to not forget to live and to love. When you listened to those final messages, they were pleas of love. They were hopes and dreams and a longing to live.
I think about 9/11 differently now.
It’s message for me is live life with gusto.
It’s a reminder to love with abandon.
Tell the people that are important to you that they are important to you.
Never forget the gift of life.
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