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2006-09-12 - 10:22 a.m.

I could say that I didn't post yesterday because we were on deadline, or because I was tired, or because of a million other reasons, but the truth is that I just didn't want to. Five years out, and this year is worse than last.

I'm not sure why we attach such meaning to specific anniversaries. I know there wasn't nearly as much hoopla over the four-year anniversary of 9-11, but something about five years kicks everyone into overdrive. My local firestation has 334 little flags in the lawn outside the firehouse to honor and mourn their FDNY brothers. Last night while driving to choir I listened to snippets of speeches on NPR.

Listening to memorial speeches, especially those made by government officials, was a very very schizofrenic experience for me. On the one hand, it took me right back to the days immediately following 9-11, and brought back all the sorrow and fear I felt in those bleak fall days. But on the other hand--this is five years later!! Why aren't we asking the tough questions? Why do we continue to claim that the only way to truly honor the fallen is to stay the course? Why is suggesting that their memories might be better served by taking a hard look at our foreign policy strategies seen as profane?

The orgy of national grief yesterday sickened me. We have movies about this now. I'm sure everyone in the country was terrified, but those of us in New York and DC were there, and that's a totally different animal. Especially after the bombings in London and Madrid, there's not a day that I don't get on the metro without a tiny dark thought that I might not reach my destination. As my husband starts to look for employment, I'm hoping he finds work at the unspecified agency down the street--not only because it sounds like work he'd enjoy and because he'd be able to bike to work in 25 minutes, but also because it is far enough outside of the danger zone that I don't need to worry as much.

I'm not letting that fear dictate our actions. I still take the Metro, and am damn happy to do it. It beats traffic any day, and the warm fuzzies I get from knowing I'm doing at least a little to help the environment rock. My husband will get a job where he gets a job, and I'm far more concerned about him enjoying his work than I am about the possibility of a terrorist strike. The odds, even living in DC, against either of us ever being involved in attack are astronomically low. And even if all of the above rings false, the bitter truth is that you cannot live with terror. You can only go so far before you become numb. Sure, things shock me back to terror. My husband called me about the London bombing while I was actually on the Metro, and I shaking until I got off that train. But to keep up that kind of emotionally heightened state in your daily life is impossible.

Five years out, and it feels as though people are deliberately trying to recreate the emotions we all felt on that day. Five years out and I'm a hell of lot more cynical than I was back then. It is not lost on me that we're facing an extremely important mid-term election in a few months. FIve years ago I thought my world was literally coming to an end. I'm enormously grateful I was wrong, but I'm still looking at the future with trepidation. My thoughts on who this country's enemies are have undergone profound changes in the last five years.

As my husband and I start talking about starting a family in the next year or so, a not-small part of me wonders if this is the right thing to do. Is it fair to bring a child into this world right now? But I imagine every generation has had those fears, and the worst thing I can do is to give up, to let terror dictate my life. There are too many people who want Americans to give in to fear, to let it rule our lives, to abdicate our freedom and place blind trust in others. If Roosevelt was right, if there truly is nothing to fear except fear itself, then the antidote is hope. That is something I refuse to surrender. And that is the enduring, indelible mark 9-11 has left on my soul. Hope.

 

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