What is it that I need to remember? Lots of things, I suppose. One is simply that life is fragile and unpredictable. When I wake in the morning, I have no idea how that day will end. I hope this doesn't leave me trembling in fear of the unknown, but instead motivates me to choose how I live each moment (or at least choose for some of them), to try to live and love wholly and completely.
So much changed that day, and I suppose I should remember that, too. People died, some as innocent victims of time and place, others as heroes who rose to the occasion. Hearts were broken that day, watching the horror unfold on television. Many found a new courage, and a new sense of unity. Mothers and fathers, parents and children, friends and family, bereft, were left to puzzle out a new life.
It falls to me still, eleven years later, to remember, and in that memory, to be kind to others; to serve and to mourn; to do my best to make something of my life, in memory of their lives. (Hm. That idea bears further thought and attention, as I seem to still fall short in that area.)
Billy Collins wrote eloquently of remembering the individuals, and not the event. I feel much more hopeful, as I focus on those wonderfully unique strangers (known to God, if not to me), celebrate life, and let the destruction be washed away.
by Billy Collins
Yesterday, I lay awake in the palm of the night.
A soft rain stole in, unhelped by any breeze,
And when I saw the silver glaze on the windows,
I started with A, with Ackerman, as it happened,
Then Baxter and Calabro,
Davis and Eberling, names falling into place
As droplets fell through the dark.
Names printed on the ceiling of the night.
Names slipping around a watery bend.
Twenty-six willows on the banks of a stream.
In the morning, I walked out barefoot
Among thousands of flowers
Heavy with dew like the eyes of tears,
And each had a name --
Fiori inscribed on a yellow petal
Then Gonzalez and Han, Ishikawa and Jenkins.
Names written in the air
And stitched into the cloth of the day.
A name under a photograph taped to a mailbox.
Monogram on a torn shirt,
I see you spelled out on storefront windows
And on the bright unfurled awnings of this city.
I say the syllables as I turn a corner --
Kelly and Lee,
Medina, Nardella, and O'Connor.
When I peer into the woods,
I see a thick tangle where letters are hidden
As in a puzzle concocted for children.
Parker and Quigley in the twigs of an ash,
Rizzo, Schubert, Torres, and Upton,
Secrets in the boughs of an ancient maple.
Names written in the pale sky.
Names rising in the updraft amid buildings.
Names silent in stone
Or cried out behind a door.
Names blown over the earth and out to sea.
In the evening -- weakening light, the last swallows.
A boy on a lake lifts his oars.
A woman by a window puts a match to a candle,
And the names are outlined on the rose clouds --
Vanacore and Wallace,
(let X stand, if it can, for the ones unfound)
Then Young and Ziminsky, the final jolt of Z.
Names etched on the head of a pin.
One name spanning a bridge, another undergoing a tunnel.
A blue name needled into the skin.
Names of citizens, workers, mothers and fathers,
The bright-eyed daughter, the quick son.
Alphabet of names in a green field.
Names in the small tracks of birds.
Names lifted from a hat
Or balanced on the tip of the tongue.
Names wheeled into the dim warehouse of memory.
So many names, there is barely room on the walls of the heart.