We say "Never Forget," but what do we mean? Sometimes I would like to forget what I saw on those television screens 12 years ago.
I'm okay with forgetting the terror, the collapsing buildings and crashing planes, the sense of helplessness and bewilderment and panic.
I wish I could forget what it's like to live in a world where such a literally evil act is even plausible.
I am glad that in the dozen years since 9/11 we have been safe and comfortable enough that the horrors of that day have dulled in our minds.
Let other people hold onto anger, or dwell on thoughts of revenge. There are some things I am fine with putting behind me for good, setting down to never pick up again.
The year before the Towers fell we read a poem in my English class, and I haven't been able to escape it since. You may know it yourself: in it, a man beholds a crumbled ruin in the middle of a desert, all that remains of a once-great civilization, and upon its base he reads this warning...
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings; Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
This poem is so tantalizing because what Ozymandias (and his creator, Percy Bysshe Shelley) offers us is the promise that time will one day erase everything, including our pain.
But I hope I don't forget what it's like to know no strangers. No "you" and "me," just an overwhelming sense of being in this together.
I hope I don't forget the ones who ran toward disaster. The ones who stayed, who fought, who helped, who struggled, who risked, who sacrificed. The very best in humanity brought out into the open in reaction to its very worst.
I hope I never forget the people we lost that day.
I hope I'll continue to remember the ones who knew them best and mourn them still.
And I know I won't forget the thing I'd been doodling in my notebook that September morning in Mrs. Stager's Spanish class when the teacher from next door strode into the room and made the announcement that changed everything.
It was a heart.
In some distant future where New York City is just a ruin, where history is memory and memory is lost, that is the thing I hope - I know - whoever is left will still hold onto.