In Memoriam

Photo by William Basinski

I know you don’t want to listen to anything else about 9/11. Bear with me, please.

I spent a good chunk of time listening to William Basinski’s Disintegration Loops over the last couple days. Basinski performed the first part in New York on Sept. 11th, a performance all too fitting. Basinski unwillingly married two two things together with The Disintegration Loops, at least in my mind. For those who don’t know, I’ll be brief: Basinski completed the project on September 11th, 2001, and played the pieces for his friends on the rooftop of his building as the towers collapsed. Because of this, one cannot help but imagine the things we’ve seen, in our mind’s eye, when listening to the piece.

What is remarkable, ten years on, is exactly how vivid those images are. I remember everything about that day. The one thing, though that stands out is how different my morning was from that of everyone else I talk to. Everybody that I know went to school that day and nothing got done, because teachers just put the news on, and talked about it with the class. I was in the 6th grade, and in my small town (I hail from Maple Valley, WA originally), there was a pall of denial. My family and I left for a trip to Crater Lake the following day, where the events were never discussed, and when I returned to school they were never discussed, leaving my young brain (I was 11 at the time) to believe that what we had witnessed wasn’t really that bad.

It’s possible that it was never discussed there because there was a perpetual state of fear in the months that followed, a state that has never quite dissipated. Tragedy effects small-town life in surprising ways, and only as I write this do I process that denial itself is the very first stage of grief. The spot where the World Trade Centers once stood is 2,844 miles from my original residence in Maple Valley, proving that sorrow travels at extraordinary speeds.

We have all pressed on since then. I am a man who enjoys making jokes about tragedy, but in reality it’s because I am someone who uses comedy to cope with things. You can banter on about how that day is meaningless since it happened, but to say this proves that an event of that magnitude is much too big to ever completely take in. It’s possible that this is why it took so long for everything to sink in afterwards, because the human mind simply cannot process everything at once. Perhaps a decade is not enough to truly process it.

The refrain following the reveal that the events were caused by radical fundamentalists from across the sea was that we should keep living, keep shopping, keep going to work and loving each other, “or the terrorists win.” “…Or the terrorists win” has since become something of a punchline, harking back to when we had a leader too scared to tell his people that they should be scared. In reality, however, what nobody realizes is that what he was saying was completely right. Terrorism is an act that doesn’t destroy tangible things exclusively, and the terrorists would have won if we had not proven that we are human, and that we would carry on, no matter what. The act of destroying the lives of so many people was to cripple a nation they thought to be impure, and strip it of its humanity. In hindsight, President Bush made a great many mistakes in the years that followed, but the one thing he does not get credit for is the fact that what he was saying was exactly what needed to be done. Because, really, who here among us could handle a situation any better? Could any of us do something besides sit silently in a classroom for several minutes, while the news that people had taken violent steps to destroy the country which you personally lead, sank into your very soul? Bush did a lot of terrible things as leader, but he will never get the credit he deserves for holding strong in those days.

And that’s my point, really. To exist in the fucked-up, scaremongering era that was ushered in post 9/11 is to never, ever allow what happened to sink in so deep that you cannot move on. Some of us have done this better than others, and who could blame those who couldn’t make it? The point is that we are still living and breathing, and we will always carry on. But most importantly, the point is this: these are the days that you should care about. The terrorists really do win when you allow yourself to be apathetic, because not caring is just as good as not existing at all. So, I invite you once again, in the footsteps of a madman with good intentions: you are living, and you are breathing, and I urge you to continue to do so, to live your life, and to let the world at large into your heart.

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