A few nights ago I was flipping through the channels on my TV and came across a special on September 11th. After that one ended, another came on, and then another, and over the last few days I haven’t stopped watching. As I sat on the couch sobbing my way through another documentary, Mike gently suggested that I change the channel. But I couldn’t.
I feel a deep responsibility to watch and read everything I can about the people who died on September 11th. I want to listen to their stories. I want to hear about how some of them sacrificed themselves to save co-workers and strangers. I want to hear about the man who loved his job, and the woman who happened to be there for a meeting. With each new show I watch, I see new faces and learn new names.
Someday Annie is going to learn about September 11th. I know inevitably she will learn the name of the organization that orchestrated the attacks, and she’ll probably learn the names of some of the people responsible. I want to be able to tell her the names of the people I’ve learned about. I want her to know and remember the names of victims as easily as the rest of us remember the names of the men who killed them.
I know what it’s like to want the world to remember someone. I want Madeline and Jackie to be spoken about for many decades. I want their lives to mean something to people beyond their immediate families and friends. I am sometimes overwhelmed with the need to fill a person’s ears and eyes with the essence of the person I lost.
If I want that so desperately for my own, I have to do it for others, too. So when I watch these programs, I learn new names. I memorize them and search them on the internet. I read about someone’s child, spouse, father, mother, friend. I cry for them, mourn for them, and promise to never forget them.