The date brings the usual "where were you when it happened" memories each year, and yes, those memories for me are vivid since I was working in the news business at the time. But early on, I realized there are two very distinctive filters for Americans when it comes to those memories. There are the filters of those who lived in New York and DC at the time, and then there are the shades everyone else wears. While it was horrifying for our entire nation, it just wasn't the same for those of us who weren't THERE. For those of us who didn't lose a friend or loved one. And for those of us who don't live with the painful personal loss of someone who literally disappeared from the face of the earth that day. The terrorist attacks that September day affected us all, but most of us are a step removed from it. We can shelve those memories for months and pull them out for examination on Patriots Day. But others deal every day with loss. They walk past visual reminders of what happened, and they live and work in the midst of ghosts. I see glimpses of that rawness in my friends who were there. I want to know what that's like in order to understand, and yet, I'm so thankful I can't fully understand.
When we visited New York a few years ago, I was so moved by some of the displays inside St. Paul's Chapel at the site, a refuge for recovery workers after the attacks. The items were so personal. The sample of photos of the missing brought back those gut wrenching images on TV each night of people trying vainly to find loved ones, and while it makes me look closer, I know others turn away because it hurts to look.
The memorial panels on the side of NYFD Ten House were beautiful. I wanted to capture the texture of them because I wanted to remember the cool roughness of them and the visual cue to "feel" the sorrow and recovery they represented.
I understand why the 9/11 museum is controversial. For those close by, it's too much. For those of us at a distance, it's not enough to truly know the devastation dealt to thousands of Americans. We can watch specials on TV. We can read pictures. We can look at pictures, but it's never really enough.