At about this time on September 11, 2001--shortly after a jetliner hit the north tower of the World Trade Center--I was doing basically what I'm doing right now: Dicking around online when I should be working. The work in question was sundry administrative stuff (filing, I believe) in a small, alternative K-12 where I taught part time, filling out my work day as a sort of low-level assistant in the office. I heard about the "accident"--or, at least, we hoped it was an accident, I prayed it was an accident--on slashdot.org, which is what I was reading instead of working.
I went down to the high school room (it was a *small* school) and told the teachers and kids what had happened. Some of the high schoolers walked to the resale shop up the road and bought a TV so they could watch the news coverage (the school didn’t have a TV that would pick up broadcasts, and getting this one to do so took a bit of jerryrigging, as I recall). They watched all morning, and all afternoon. They saw folks jump from buildings. They saw Tower 2 collapse. They heard overtaxed reporters say “fuck” and "shit," and just plain absurd things: "The tower, it came down, it peeled apart like a banana, but a banana full of people."
I heard a man from the NSA say, “We’re still reviewing all the calls from that morning." This I remember quite vividly. This was 2001. This was on national news, live. Edward Snowden was still in high school.
Later that day my cousin--whom I hear from hardly at all--emailed me because she knew a different ”Dave Nelson“ who’d died when the towers fell.
Outside the sky was clear and blue, cloudless, not a single contrail. You know, like a TV tuned to a dead channel. There are only two days whose weather I can meaningfully recall: 9/11 and my wedding (which was outdoors, in a gazebo, on 9/13/2003).
I don't know what we're supposed to *do* with this day. It's like Armistice Day, but inside out. Maybe this should be a day for remembering wars that we lost by starting--which is to say all of them. Maybe a day to remember that the only problem that violence can conceivably solve is the problem of having too many live people, too many unraped people, to many standing buildings, too many passable roads, too many non-orphans, too much electricity and drinking water, too much industry, too much progress.
Maybe 9/11 should be a secular Yom Kippur, when we are free to honestly meditate on all the places we went wrong and screwed up, and all the suffering that's created. There's a thing we do during the Yom Kippur service, a "collective confession" where the entire congregation, together, reads aloud a litany of sins: We confess to arrogance and bigotry and jealousy and flattery, to being stiff-necked and holding grudges, to sexual impropriety and dishonest and abuse of power, to sinning in secret and openly, freely and under duress, in thought and in deed. And it isn't like you just read the ones that you did; you read them all. We all read them all aloud, because we all have a share in it. If I've been honest, but I've let someone else's dishonesty slide, then I'm part of that dishonesty. If I've been violent because I thought that violence somehow stopped some worse violence--it's still violence.
So, I hated the wars and you hated the wars and we all think and thought the wars were all a bad idea--but they still happened, and most of you reading this helped pay the bill. These are our wars. This huge violence is ours, and it keeps getting bigger, and that's ours too. So, if this is a day for anything, maybe it's a day for all of us, simultaneously, to fess up to our transgressions, our weakness, our pettiness, the monumental destructiveness of these faults, and to ask humanity's forgiveness and to, in turns, grant that forgiveness to the rest of humanity. Humanity kind needs a do-over.
And then let's move on, further, together.