I can’t really fathom that it has been 10 years since the attacks of 9/11. Although I look at my daughter – her birthday is Sept 7 – and I recall instantly how we were celebrating her 5th birthday in her Kindergarten class on that day. Boy, there’s a lot of growth that has happened in these 10 years. And then I reflect on the thousands of parents who were robbed of the opportunity to see their children grow these past years.
As the day approaches, our society is grappling with how to mark, recall and reflect on this national tragedy. One approach is to relive the moments, showing footage, airing interviews with minute by minute descriptions of what was occurring. Another approach is to interview survivors to discover the lives they have made for themselves in the aftermath. Still others seize the moment to talk about national security and the ever imposing threat to our nation.
There is no question that that day had a profound impact on the United States. Just Sunday I was in DC walking around the Mall and noticed how much the landscape has evolved. It’s amazing that just 10 years ago the city was an open accessible space, championing its treasures for all to see. Now it resembles more of a bunker. It’s not the screening at every building, that’s pretty innocuous. It’s the barriers and new entry ways, creating a city looking out for the next fight.
So how do we mark the anniversary of a tragedy that has changed us?
Jewish sages have grappled with this question for thousands of years. Perhaps if we look at the most poignant of tragic days in the Jewish calendar we can apply some of those lessons here. Many people know that Tisha B’Av marks the day that the Temple was destroyed. But that’s like saying that September 11 marks the day the towers fell. It is so much more. Thousands lost their lives. Hundreds were injured. The nation lost its innocence. Our reality shifted. On Tisha B’av we gather to read the historic account of Lamentations, recalling the magnitude of the tragedy that befell people in those days.
We remember the pain of the past.
We come together.
The community reads the book of Lamentations together. This is a national tragedy and to mark it we must do so in the presence of community – to fully experience what a loss this was. But communal sharing is not enough. We are asked to fast. To experience the personal nature of this tragedy. We cannot look at someone else and feel badly for them. It needs to feel bad to us. We were all the targets.
We feel ourselves in the tragedy.
One of the most poignant aspects of Tisha B’av is that unlike all other days in the Jewish year, this day does not truly end with sundown. Remnants of the mournful nature of the day remain until noontime the next day. Huge tragedies are never over. We suffer under there aftermath forever. Yet we go on. We take our new reality and forge forward.
We reflect on this day far past the calendar date of commemoration.
How has this event changed us? How will it affect our future? What will I commit myself to doing differently? How can I honor the past and engage the future?
I see my daughter struggle to remember that day. She won’t. She sees the images on TV and that is her memory. But she will join those of us who were there and those of us who will come in future generations remembering and reflecting on that tragic day.