Sept. 11, or “Patriot Day,” as President Bush has termed the day that is burned on the American consciousness, came and went in quiet tones. On the second anniversary of 9-11, ceremonies were held in New York and other places where the terrorist actions took place.
The fire chief of Shanksville, Pa., where terrorists crashed Flight 93, said the community lives with the tragedy each day, and that families of the victims often come to the site to honor their loved ones — and console emergency workers.
“They put our grief before their own,” Greg Walker said. It’s a testament to the communal power of tragedy.
At the World Trade Center site Thursday, 200 children of Sept. 11 victims read all 2,792 names of the people who died that terrible day.
The reading took two hours and 20 minutes — about the same amount of time it takes to watch a Hollywood action movie. Perhaps the way to observe the third and all subsequent anniversaries of Sept. 11 would be to devote two hours and 20 minutes of quiet service to the community, to the family, or even one’s self: a walk around the neighborhood one normally drives through, an afternoon volunteering for a service organization, or an evening at the library reading up on history, global affairs, or poetry or literature.
There would be no rules with the two-hour-and-twenty-minute ritual, just an intentional act that connects daily life to the horror of Sept. 11, a conscious effort to link the typical with the tragic, to entwine what we do with what we must remember.