All around are the clear signs of what it is I should be feeling; but for me it is never that simple, is always a disturbing mix of conflicting emotions.
It’s part flashback. The surreal movie-like scenes. Me sitting at my desk as the 2nd tower collapsed. People caught in that unimaginable dilemma and jumping from a burning building.
Part remembrance. The emergency workers running towards the disaster and not from it. People frantically looking for their loved ones. The candlelight vigils held around the world.
And part reflection. Not only on the specific act and its consequences, not only on the lost lives and terrible suffering, but on the greater issues surrounding that day and the days after it. What is to be the legacy of that day? What is the point of continuing to mark this event if we will not take the time to learn from it?
These questions are the sort of thoughts that get in the way of that indisputable feeling I know I should have. I feel the guilt creep in as the speeches begin to fall on my deaf ears and the questions come to the forefront instead. But I can’t help it.
Is it our responsibility only to remember? To give a moment of silence and play back the video footage and write heart-warming updates on Facebook?
How do we truly honour the dead? By waving a flag? By violence and strong words? By regressing instead of progressing?
I know that amidst our everyday lives we must find a practical way to pay respect to such monumental events. And I know that faced with radical people armed with violence that sometimes we must in turn be violent.
But I also know that our duties do not end there.
The true tragedy would be for such a horror to have happened and not to have built something greater from it. That is how we truly honour such a thing.
Yet we are not doing it. We allowed fear to blind us into an invasion of Iraq, costing trillions of dollars and thousands of lives and building a new generation of extreme hate. Cases of violence and abuse against innocent Muslims have increased, causing a new rift between “us” and “them”. A war-drum now beating to the tune of Iran, that old song bringing us that much closer to more suffering. Our political discourse still mired in divisive and alienating dialogue, caring more about individual gains than the greater good of the nation.
What a shame for so many to have died and so little to have changed.
That is the thought that gets in the way on days like today.
What a shame.