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September 11, 2001... the day we all changed forever

So yesterday i was reading the washington post, and i have found donna britt to be extremely thought provoking as well as a kind of kindred spirit in her thoughts. below is her thoughts on sept. 11 and what, perhaps, we should do.
i wasn't thinking that it was that close to us, but it's literally days away. that day last year, i was reading in bed when a phone call came from my best friend telling me the towers were hit. we talked, and as we did, a realization of my family and friends near/in both towers and pentagon took over me, and i spent the day trying to get through to them, trying to reach them to be certain of their safety.
i didn't call my family or friends who live all over this country, but this year, i will. i will call and make certain that those i love, know they are loved. not a moment to soon, and hopefully, not a moment too late.
peace of God bless us all that day, give us strength to carry on without those we have lost, both that day and forever. and give us a peace that only God can give, and the knowledge that together we stand. united.
also, as that day is the birthday of one of my favorite people, i will be calling him to let him know i am always thinking of him that day, not just because it's that particular wednesday...
happy birthday duston. love you.

Just Another Wednesday? Not This Year
By Donna Britt
Friday, August 30, 2002; Page B01

Picking up tickets for an art exhibition for my mother, I glanced at the date and thought, "Too bad -- a Wednesday." My Wednesdays are especially busy; I couldn't attend the show.
Days later -- when I actually delivered the tickets -- I noticed which Wednesday Mom's outing was scheduled for:

Sept. 11.

More recently, I watched my hairdresser consult her computer before scheduling my next appointment. "Something in around two weeks?" she asked, jotting a date and time on a reminder card. She handed it to me.
"Did you see what day this is?" I asked.
She looked again. And breathed, "Oh, man."
Amazing. It's been a year since Americans shared the agony, astonishment and horror that seared "September 11" into our national consciousness. Is it possible that the date could have become -- even for brief, unthinking moments -- just another Wednesday?

Maybe it's me. Perhaps my failure to instantaneously note the date's import marks me as insensitive or thoughtless. As the anniversary of the tragedy approaches, a mind-numbing array of TV specials, concerts, commemorative magazines, newspaper sections and books are converging to help us remember -- or even to relive -- that day.
What kind of person could overlook the date?

Once upon a time, Sept. 11 was just a day. It was the birthday of my cool cousin, Joann. It was a day that meant school had just started, that moms and kids everywhere were readjusting to homework, packed lunches, after-school pickups. It meant millions of sun worshipers were feeling depressed -- summer, inevitably, was ending.

Now the date means something momentous. Each of us has to decide what -- and what we should do to remember.
Some people would suggest we do nothing at all. Caring people, they believe, won't get their hair done, have intimate lunches or celebrate birthdays that Wednesday. The enormity of what was lost that day means everyone should halt his or her life to memorialize it.

Forget living, they'd say. We're honoring the dead.

Others, like Washington filmmaker Aviva Kempner, are planning small, significant gestures. Kempner, 55, is urging grateful fellow citizens to give flowers, cookies and appreciative notes to employees of their local fire and police stations and post offices in honor of those who died in last year's tragedies. "Every year," she says, "I'm going to do it."

Lovely. Since I won't be getting my hair done, I'll do it, too -- once I process the fact that a year has actually passed. The disbelief still feels too fresh. The pain remains that of a hidden, penetrating bruise that's unfelt until you're jostled.

Americans -- pummeled by anthrax, military and civilian casualties in Afghanistan, Enron and WorldCom, Palestinian suicide bombings and Israeli retaliations, church-protected child molesters, a spate of child disappearances and killings, and a possible, controversial war with Iraq -- have been jostled with a vengeance.

Wary and dazed, we now get to relive the gut punch that started it all.

Somehow, sitting before the TV as images of that day's horror and heroism trigger my inevitable tears won't be enough.
Tears are too easy.
I figured this out Wednesday, after dialing Pepco for the fourth time about an all-day neighborhood power outage. I'd missed several vital calls, argued with my teenager, studied a mountain of bills by flashlight and -- on the way to Mom's, where the lights worked -- dashed through drenching rain to pay for a class my kid hates having to take.

Desperate for distraction, I asked my 20-year-old, who heads back to college this weekend, how he'll commemorate Sept. 11.

"I don't know," he said slowly. "But I think [the day] should be about gratitude."
Last Sept. 11, he was attending a social studies lecture when a student "marched in and said, 'Have you heard? Someone crashed a plane into the World Trade Center,' " he recalled. Hearing about the Pentagon attack, "I thought that the world was ending, that the apocalypse was going down, right then. I thought, 'What should I do?' "

The answer: call his family.
"I wanted to say, 'I love you,' " he said. He paused.
"That's what people can do [on the anniversary] -- call their relatives and friends and say that they're grateful for them. There's so much hate in the world. We should make it a day when we say, 'I don't know if you know this, but I love you.' "

Last Sept. 11, thousands of decent people found themselves trapped by an unthinkable obscenity. Hundreds of them had time enough, presence of mind enough, to call loved ones and say how much they meant to them.
Acknowledging those we cherish on Sept. 11 -- as we should, but seldom do, every day -- will make it more than "just a day." Emulating the loving actions of those who died may make us cry, but we'll smile, too.

Perfect for a day that honors the living and the dead.

© 2002 The Washington Post Company


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