The Difference A Day Makes


Dad is alive. Siblings are well.

I’m grateful. I’m relieved. The lesson lingers. A quiet smile for it all. The smallest of uplift.

Today always feels like a somber day. A celebration would feel unseemly today even if affirmation of life could be considered the ultimate just cause. This day still requires a certain amount of reverence, even after so many years have passed.

Dad said the power came back on just long enough to make a cup of coffee and then went off again and remained off all day. Still off at last report. He asked for updates on the next hurricane before dismantling the storm shields.

He doesn’t have a smartphone. He can’t see the online observances and commemorations of 9/11. I can barely stand to look at them myself. It’s still too much. Except turning away feels disrespectful of what we’ve done with all our time since then.

It amazes me that this particular day makes time travel not only possible but involuntary. It’s almost mandatory. This day rolls around on the calendar every year and every year we all get transported back to the lives we were living ten years ago today, then eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen. Now sixteen years, and we still do it. Perhaps those alive during the original event will always do it; a multi-generational trauma bond.

If there is one thing I do believe about grief, it is the comfort of ritual. This time travel we all perform and experience is a ritual. Even if reliving it isn’t a comfort, the fact that we all do it as a collective certainly is a comfort. Anything that brings us together is a comfort these days — even bad memories — just to know it is still possible.

It is still possible. Maybe that’s all I really have to say today. It doesn’t much feel like it anymore, with the exception of this one day per year, but it is still possible. Remember how it felt to be together on 9/12? On 9/13? As the days turned into weeks? Remember the way the feeling surged and strengthened as the shock wore off and we all just reached for each other?

Remember? Remember the way we didn’t have to set anything aside to cleave and unify and merge and bind into one huge mythic force of heroism and fraternity? Across miles. Across the oceans. Across all the stupid lines and divisions that feel so insurmountable now. None of this shit mattered then. It was incredible. It took something so horrid to bring us together. It took so little to tear us apart again.

It’s the sharpest pang of all — the regret that we let it be so fleeting. Look at us now. So enameled with hate now. Terrorizing each other. Wishing death upon each other. Calling down upon each other everything that we once resisted in tearful, hand-clasped resolve, swearing we would never ever ever ever. All those weeks when we loved each other so much that the entire world couldn’t help but love us too; just a memory now. Just a place we visit now. One day a year.

— Mercy

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