Forgetting 9/11

My local supermarket just e-mailed me their weekly deals on raspberries and sushi rolls with the subject head “Always Remember, September 11th.”

They were not trying to be crass, of course, but I don’t need reminders to remember. I would sooner forget.

I was across the street from the Twin Towers on the morning of September 11, 2001 when they were attacked, in the offices of a publication about New York City that I served as editor. The next day, we launched Rebuilding NYC, a separate section within the website. We kept it going with at least weekly updates for three years. I edited hundreds of articles and opinion pieces. I also attended many memorial services, both in the immediate aftermath and at every anniversary. The World Trade Center Health Registry continues to contact me several times a year to monitor my health.

But recently, an out-of-town friend visiting New York bought me a ticket to the 9/11 Memorial Museum; his idea. While I waited for him and his family to arrive with my ticket (they were late) I marveled at the 9/11 Memorial – the two waterfalls at the footprints of the towers. I’m embarrassed to say that I hadn’t even realized they were completed. They were beautiful, and unbearably moving – and they were enough for me.

I left, texting my friend that I was not going to attend the museum with them. “I’m not ready,” I wrote. The truth is, I don’t think I’ll ever be ready – or, more precisely, I am ready to forget.

I am ready to forget the political uses to which people have put the 9/11 attacks, the jingoism and conspiracy theories and petty arguments; the political hay that self-aggrandizing politicians and other individuals continue to make out of the event to this day; I am ready to forget the ambitious plans and promises that have yet to come to fruition. Just this week Barbra Streisand accepted the chairmanship of the latest iteration of a performing arts center planned for the site of the World Trade Center. I am no longer sure it’s a good idea to build a performing arts center there.

I am ready to forget, knowing that I can’t.

Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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