9/11: Remembering or Dwelling?

“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” -Winston Churchill

ny-2It’s that time of year again. September 11. Fifteen years ago, life changed for every single one of us. It was our Pearl Harbor. Our Fort Sumter. Our Lexington and Concord. What followed changed the course of the nation, shattered our illusions of safety in the Post-Cold War Era. On that day, thousands lost their lives and millions were affected. From pilots who were prepared to ram United Flight 93 to the firefighters who climbed the Towers knowing the odds, the sacrifices, the well known and the barely heard of, shaped the day. Ben Sliney acted on his own initiative and shut down the US airspace on his first day as a FAA National Operations Manager. Colonels and Generals took orders from Fire Chiefs and paramedics at the Pentagon while the nation looked on, stunned and silent as people leaped from the Towers and passengers rushed a cockpit with a last “Let’s roll.”

We all changed that day.ny-5

It’s a day we should never forget. The lesson that America is vulnerable to something other than another super power isn’t something any of us should ever forget. We cannot let the lessons fade from memory lest we fall victim again.

Now I’m going to say something controversial: we need to stop dwelling on 9/11. What you say? Didn’t he just say never forget? Yes. Yes, I did. I did not contradict myself.

Dwell: verb (used without object), dwelt or dwelled, dwelling.
1. to live or stay as a permanent resident; reside.
2. to live or continue in a given condition or state:
to dwell in happiness.
3. to linger over, emphasize, or ponder in thought, speech, or writing (often followed by on or upon):
to dwell on a particular point in an argument.
4. (of a moving tool or machine part) to be motionless for a certain interval during operation.

ny-1We must remember the lessons: how it happened, what worked, what didn’t and the fact that the whole nation came together for even the briefest of periods before we began the blame game (we’re way too good at that one). We need to stop dwelling on the loss and memorializing it every September 11th with solemn ceremonies and dredging up the sense of loss. It’s time to move on. It happened, the dead are dead and lives are forever changed.

Each time we televise the reading of the names we give power to those that wish us harm. Our solemn remembrance is their victory, their inspiration. We need to take a lesson from Israel. When a bus is bombed the bus stop is back in service within a couple of days. No weeks on end investigation. No hallowed ground memorial that lives in perpetuity to iconize their enemies. The attack is seen as what it is: an act of war.

Care for the victims, bury the dead, comfort the survivors and clean up the mess. Carrying on and redoubling your efforts to prevent it from happening again is a thumb in the eye to the perpetrators. No different than London during the Battle of Britain. No different than Ireland during the Troubles. ny3

Remaining motionless and living with pain and loss isn’t healthy for anybody. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a thousand times over: humans are naturally resilient. We’re hardwired to adapt, improvise and move on. It’s programmed survival instinct. And it’s served us well for the most part.

Remembering that a Woolly Mammoth crushed Grog because he got too close is a lesson. Mourning Grog for years on end serves no purpose in our primal brain. As harsh as it sounds: Grog is no more, remember to dodge the beast and let the rest go.

Each year we short circuit our natural resilience because nobody wants to be seen as insensitive to the victims. Everyone must be seen to grieve and relive the day as a sort of national tribute on the altar of loss. It’s been 15 years. It’s time to stop.

I’m not saying forget. Never forget. In the same way a small group comes together each December 7th to honor the fallen and remember the sacrifices in Pearl Harbor, we should remember 9/11. Quietly. Personally. It’s time for the huge events and media coverage to fade into memory.ny-4

It’s time to release the pain and redouble the resolve to never let it happen again. To remember the lessons, to say a silent prayer for the fallen and to look forward, not back.

“Democratic nations must try to find ways to starve the terrorist and the hijacker of the oxygen of publicity on which they depend.” – Margaret Thatcher

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