Last Saturday, two more firemen were found in the rubble where the Twin Towers once stood. You could see the searchers fumbling with the bodies, putting them on stretchers, covering each of them with an oversized American flag.
And everywhere around Ground Zero, my father told me, were pictures and profiles of people who had worked in the two buildings. A name, a picture, a description, a brief, choked plea. A floor number. The obituaries ran on and on in the New York Times, a dozen a day.
Despite this, it has been easy, almost, to forget that it happened. That moment we awoke, bleary-eyed, to see the world on fire.
Or not to forget, but to get caught up in the lives we used to lead, picking up where we left off. There is playoff baseball on TV. Midterms are coming up. Harry Potter will finally arrive next month.
But then I’ll see the towers crumbling once again and remember that someone, somewhere, must have witnessed something inexplicable that morning: a plane falling from the sky, and then, after a moment of disbelief, the twist of steel, the billowing heat.
For most people, the fallen towers have now become a symbol of fundamentalism rather than a symbol of our loss. Part of our attention must be devoted to al Qaeda and the Taliban, yes, to the unbelievers in the religion they claim to defend.
But another part of our mind yearns to retreat to the past.
In the days after the attacks I saw the graffiti scrawled on the walls: “Never Forget” and “We Will Always Remember.”
No one has forgotten. Not completely, anyway. The images are seared into our memories: the firefighters and the policemen weeping at funerals, the haunting transcripts of the calls from Flight 93, the pictures of Palestinians rejoicing in the streets — images impossible to forget.
I fear, though, that in our eagerness to defend this nation and to return to normalcy, we are letting those images fade into a collage. One more article lamenting the tragedy, one more picture. Every word written about Sept. 11 further erases the memory of the actual event.
This is one more article, one more picture. But before we move forward for good, before this nation becomes again what it promised to be in Jamestown and Boston, at Mount Vernon and Monticello, I want to remember the first blow, the initial grief, and feel it as deeply as I ever did.
Let the grief linger. It will make us stronger.
Charles Finch is a senior in Berkeley College.