Generally speaking, anniversaries are cause for celebration. Whether gathering together in honor of someone’s birthday or honoring another year married, anniversary celebrations are filled with smiling faces and the sounds of laughter. However, anniversaries can also mark a time in history when neither smiling faces nor the sound of laughter exist.
Throughout the world, anniversaries exist and remind us of a specific time when governments, terrorists, dictators, etc. killed innocent people. As the date nears, conversations grow, pictures and videos resurface, and people recall their own memories of the tragedy.
We hold on to these dates in history with sadness and grief. We cling to the memories like a child clings to his/her blanket, as if holding on to the date brings some sort of understanding or semblance of peace. We insist we’ll never forget.
But we do – we do forget.
No, I’m not insinuating we forget the lives lost or the lives forever altered with illness or handicap. Rather, I am saying we forget the why. We forget why these horrific incidents happen.
We forget about the hatred that brought down the towers, as we find ourselves hating someone around us. We forget about the racism that lead to genocide in third world countries, and the racism that permeated throughout Germany, Poland and the United States, as we walk around feeling superior to our coworkers and/or our neighbors. We forget about the bigotry that continues to thrive within us, as we spew intolerance through various so-called social media.
Differences are no longer celebrated. Differences are mocked and hated. Our differences have become kindling for a fire of violence.
We have forgotten how to get along with others. We have forgotten how to trust others. We have forgotten how to accept others. We have forgotten how to respect others. We have forgotten how to respect ourselves.
Yes, I still remember where I was when the planes started crashing into buildings on September 11, 2001. Yes, I remember how the first responders walked into burning buildings never to return. Yes, I remember how people chose to jump out a window rather than be consumed by flames. Yes, I remember the lives lost. Yes, I think about the men and women continuing to battle their mental, emotional and physical scars. And yes, I remember how the United States and the world came together to help their friends, family and neighbors.
Now the world gets together on weekends and anniversaries with memorials and moments of silence. We mark the time the planes hit each tower, the Pentagon and a field in PA. We see photos of burning buildings, disheveled first responders and survivors, twisted metal and blankets of soot. We watch videos and hear recorded messages. We do all of this in remembrance of September 11, 2001. Then, on September 12, we go on with our lives, cursing the driver who cut us off, glaring with judgement at the person dressed differently, and taking to social media to bash any one and everyone who is different from ourselves.
The bumper stickers, the memorials, the ribbons all claim we will never forget. But we do- we do forget.