Here it is again, September 11. It's been seven years. The memories are starting to fade a little, the world is moving on. Construction is finally starting on the Ground Zero Memorial. This may be the last year that the memorial service will be able to include a descent into the crater that the devastation left there.
This morning I almost forgot the date. Then when I turned on the radio I heard Mayor Bloomberg speaking about September 11, 2001, and I remembered. On my way in to work I heard part of the annual recitation of all of the names of those who were lost on that day. That always affects me, even if I think I'm going to be OK at first.
Seven years is a long time. Babies born to those who died that day have grown into children, children who don't remember the parent or parents that they lost. Teens who were young children when they lost a parent still remember their mother or father, but the memories are growing distant. Wives or husbands may have grieved, moved on and married again. Or not. Parents who lost a child may have started to accept it; but will never forget or be consoled.
Life has continued on for all of us. Even thinking back to where I was on that blue September morning, so much has changed in my own life. Since then, my father died, I lost three friends to cancer, my mother and aunt moved out of their homes into apartments, friends of mine have married, my mother-in-law entered a nursing home, I completed a certificate course in historic preservation, my job has changed in several important ways, my husband stopped working in New York and changed his career path as well. All of you can think back on your last seven years and see how far you've come down the road since that morning.
But once a year, on September 11, we all return to that day together. We all think back on what we were doing, how we heard about it, what we remember.
Suddenly it is all there; the panic, the fear, the foreboding. What if there are more of them? Will there be another attack? How many planes are actually missing? Do I know anyone who might have been there? What about my neighbor? Doesn't he work in the Towers?
The sudden shock when the Towers collapsed. The screams of the people in the videos shown, over and over, of the planes hitting the buidings.
The endless smoke from the ruin over the next months, with that image of the remaining pieces of the structure jutting into the smoke-filled sky, shown over and over on television while the news covered the massive cleanup. The made-for-TV specials, the documentaries, the conspiracy theories then followed.
But in the end, it seemed that a bunch of low-tech terrorists just got lucky with a plan that included box cutters and exploding jets; they took advantage of our trust and our free society, and were able to inflict a terrible wound.
Could it happen again? Yes, of course. Nothing we have done in the past seven years would prevent another attack like this. Whatever precautions are taken now only prevent the same thing from happening again. Not something different.
Here is an example: Only three ounces of any one liquid are allowed on a plane. But there are plenty of ways to bring separate ingredients aboard that can then be combined into an explosive and detonated once aboard. See this Washington Post article for more details.
For the past seven years our government has wasted effort, time and treasure - not to mention uncounted thousands of lives - attacking Iraq, which had nothing to do with the September 11, 2001 horror. This debacle has actually made us less safe by strengthening Iran and provoking more people around the world into hating the U.S.
While we can never feel completely safe again, there are other ways we could be trying to track down terrorists who may attack us again. Going to war in a conventional manner is not one of them.
Today both Barack Obama and John McCain will go together to Ground Zero to pay their respects to the dead. Since they are putting aside politics for this day, so will I.
But tomorrow is another day.