With all the confusing muddle of thoughts bouncing around randomly across the net, I thought I’d take time to clarify what ‘memorial’ is truly about.
Here’s the definition from my huge dictionary and while it’s not a Webster’s dictionary (which I prefer), it serves me well. Memory: n. 1. The mental process or faculty of representing in consciousness an act, experience, or impression, with recognition that it belongs to time past. 2. The experiences of the mind taken in the aggregate, and considered as influencing present and future behavior. 3. The accuracy and ease with which a person can retain and recall past experiences. 4. That which is remembered, as an act, event, person, or thing. 5. The period of time covered by the faculty of remembrance: beyond the memory of man. 6. The state of being remembered; posthumous reputation: The memory of Washington will endure. 7. That which reminds; a memorial; a memento. 8. The information storage unit of a computer.
Here are some synonyms: recollection, remembrance, reminiscence, retrospect, retrospection. My dictionary also states, “Memory is the faculty by which knowledge is retained or recalled; memory is a retention of knowledge within the grasp of the mind, while remembrance is the having what is known consciously before the mind. Either may be voluntary or involuntary. Recollection involves volition, the mind making a distinct effort to recall something, or fixing the attention actively upon it when recalled. Reminiscence is a half-dreamy memory of scenes or events long past; retrospection is a distinct turning of the mind back upon the past, bringing long periods under survey.
Here are some antonyms: forgetfulness, oblivion, obliviousness.
For the purpose of this day and this blog post, I think we should focus on definitions 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 & 7. Almost 3,000 people were killed on this day in the year 2001, many humans from many countries and of many faiths. That was the year our middle child was born. While innocent lives were being snuffed out in the northern part of our country, I was at home teaching our son and taking care of our infant daughter. We lived in a trailer at the time, out in the country where the air is clean and fragrant with grass, freshly plowed dirt, gardenias and all manner of good, green and growing things. My husband, who was TACP at the time and stationed at Ft. Polk, LA, called me from work and told me to turn the TV on. What I saw was unreal, like a nightmare. Much like the Challenger disaster, which I remember watching as a child, or the Oklahoma city bombing, or a father decapitating his disabled son…it was a horror. Tears rolled down my face as I considered the possibilities, probabilities and magnitude of this occurrence. I knew that at a moment’s notice, my husband could be called to go away and fight. At the time he was going through the process of cross-training into a different career field but I knew that didn’t mean much until we got to our next duty station. So I did the only thing I could do at the time-I prayed. Then I took my son, who was 6 and watched the news footage with me, out onto the small deck. I told him to breathe, to look at what was around us and soak it all in. What is in existence today, may not be in existence tomorrow. Take nothing for granted. Breathe. Appreciate your freedoms and don’t abuse them. And after a time of meditation and prayer, we returned inside and life went on with many prayers being lifted up.
So when I hear some fellow humans say things like ‘I just want to forget.’ or ‘Why all this fuss?’ or ‘I can’t wait until all this 9/11 stuff is over.’ I have to wonder where they were on that day. I have to wonder if they were secretly cheering for the sorry, misguided souls who perpetrated this catastrophe when it happened. I have to wonder why they would be so callous of the effect this had on those directly affected by the disaster. Why should we remember? I believe we should remember because those poor innocent souls deserve our respect and honor. Those brave public servants who rushed in to save as many as possible regardless of the fact that they might not get out alive deserve our honor and respect. Those brave soldiers who heeded the call to stamp out terrorism, even though the task was daunting and still remains a threat to this day, deserve our honor and respect. When I see people calling this memorial a political thing, I find that degrading to those who lost loved ones in the catastrophe. I find it insensitive and inhumane. It’s at times like these that we should remind people if they have nothing nice to say, they should say nothing at all. Please don’t sully the memories of loved ones lost with your sour and misery-ridden comments. Please keep those carelessly thrown darts to yourself. The rest of us commiserate with these people. The rest of us lift them up in our thoughts and prayers, hoping to buoy them and hoping to learn something from this disaster that would make us wiser and better able to avoid such a thing in future. Why remember? Because we are all humans and we all share this planet. Why are our troops still fighting a war on terrorism? Because as long as humans inhabit this planet, there will always be a bully whose ravenous hunger for power above all things drives him to smash anything and everything in his path.
So lest we leave remembrance behind for ignorant oblivion, why should we remember?
So that we can live.
And thrive in freedom.
Remember to breathe…