Someday, Sept. 11 will feel like a holiday, not like an anniversary that creeps up every fall when courses are still shoppable, when the weather’s still warm and there’s still time for frisbee on a still-green college lawn. Someday, after enough time has passed, Yale students will not hold hands and stand silently at 9 o’clock in the morning, no longer an eerie hour to start this particular day. Not yet, though.
Perhaps on Sept. 11, two-thousand-something, the first time you are not on campus for the anniversary, it will stop feeling so immediate, so close.
It will not be another shopping-day and you will not float through the afternoon pausing now and then at once-a-year Yale landmarks: the flagstone walkway on Old Campus where you first got the cell phone call; the women’s table, where you held a candle that night; the college courtyard where you stood in a circle, in silence on the day of the first anniversary. Perhaps then, the sky will not be so persistently cloudless, the air so chillingly mild and the weather so unusual and perfect a mix of late-summer and early-fall.
But not this year.
Today, like last Sept. 11, and the one before, it will be sunny and clear; balmy, maybe, brisk at worst. There will be bagels and cream cheese in your dining hall after this morning’s moment of silence and a support staff of counselors and chaplains on duty all day. There will be dinner-table speculation about how safe Yale and America really are now and classroom discussions of post-Sept. 11 foreign policy. There will be an e-mail from University Secretary Linda Lorimer, or from President Levin, or from your college master letting you know what’s going on: a vigil in the early evening on Beinecke Plaza with University Chaplain Jerry Streets, just as there was on that awful day, and in its awful shadow one year later.
For many of us, the scenery today is the same as it was two years ago. The same velvet cushions in Battell Chapel. The same leaden ring of the carillon at the same time, 9 a.m.
For some, the freshmen and the sophomores in particular, the events of Sept. 11, 2001 happened on a television somewhere else, and they have joined a community with its own unique, comfortable, bookish routine for contemplating and mourning the tragedy.
There are those who will skip class, stay in, watch the parade of commemorative television programs. Others will do their reading, do their shopping, go to the vigil, go on with their nights. A few will go home. A few to church. And a few will have the supreme luxury of sleeping through 8:45 a.m. and 9:02 a.m. and not even realizing the moments they missed.
But ultimately, the second anniversary of 9/11 feels a lot like the first, only softer, like the memories of the day itself — more distant, less raw.