On September 11th, we are supposed to remember. People intimately involved with the events in 2001– people who lost loved ones or were injured or worked on the site– they, of course, don’t have to be prodded to remember.  It’s the rest of us I wonder about–why are we remembering, and what are we supposed to accomplish in remembering?

Based on the latest lunatic rantings in the media, I suspect it’s partly so that we can blame everyone who is Muslim for our current problems.  Why is the economy so bad?  Those Muslims are out to get us! Or we have to remember so we can protect ourselves from Something Terrible happening again.  I would be all for that– if it were possible.

I’m not at all sure what remembering does for people who are dead.  I’m as much in the dark about dead people, and how to deal with death, as anyone else alive.

I laid down and breathed deep as the endodontist got a good grip.  He wiggled and wiggled, and I thought, this isn’t so bad.  Then he yanked a little, and I sat up and screeched, as much as a person can screech with a mouthful of cotton and fingers.  So now I don’t trust novocaine, and I’m three times as freaked when I go to the dentist, except that three times zero would be zero, but ignoring that mathematical reality: I’m nervous now.  On edge.  I also know to ask for more novocaine before we even begin.

When I see my ex-boyfriend, I want to take a bite out of my own stomach.  Being that irrational, and causing myself so much pain, would turn my response inside out.  I don’t think my teeth are sharp enough, and I’m not that flexible.  I do know that the memory of him makes me reluctant to form even a minor bond, like noticing the name of my checker at the grocery store.  It isn’t healthy for me to remember.

The memory of pain may make you empathetic and wise, but Doestoevsky has a great line about this: “If the sufferings of children go to swell the sum of sufferings which was necessary to pay for truth, then I protest that the truth is not worth such a price.”  I could be a kind person without having a live tooth yanked out of my head or having my heart broken.  I know I don’t have to remember my pain to be kind to people with broken legs or cancer or divorces.  I am gentler with them, I think, and a better listener.  Not that I would choose the pain I’ve had.  I never would.

It’s wise to acknowledge what your memories of pain are doing to you, to keep an eye on them, and I’m grateful to forget when it’s time.  I’ll let them search my bags and body scan me at the airport, but I don’t want to remember September 11th a minute more than I need to.  Terrible thing happened to people, as they do every day.  People got crazy and got violent with each other, as they do every day.  That’s not worth remembering.  I’m willing to remember President Bush telling us we weren’t at war with Islam, and how hard people worked to try and save each other.  That encourages me and is another memory that makes me gentler and more ready to listen.

Lost Boys

The guy who tried to blow up this latest airplane, his dad called our embassy to say, “My son is missing.  He’s gotten some wacky ideas in his head.  Look out for him.”  Was this an agonized act of love, or a furious slap back at a wayward child?  The guy’s family had lost contact with him.  No phone calls, no emails, as he studies overseas.  Were they desperately worried?  Were they suspicious?  Did they think he might be a good kid gone bad, or did they consider him a bad seed from the start?

How do you throw yourself at a person trying to set a plane on fire and force him to stop?  I’m sure not everyone felt or acted so heroically.  I think I would sit frozen in my seat, and just try not to breathe or pee on myself.

About a month ago, this kid with Asperger’s in New York City got scared because he had messed up at school.  He decided to stay on the subway, rather than getting off at his usual home stop.  He rode the subway for eleven days straight.

Is his survival and safety, after eleven days, evidence of the safety of New York City and the subway system?  I felt a little silly for walking home after midnight all those nights, a little silly for getting nervous when I was the only person at my midtown stop.  Or is his uninterrupted journey evidence of the obliviousness of humanity?  How could a boy in such distress be ignored by so many people for so long?  Shouldn’t someone have pointed the unwashed, zombie-faced kid out to a cop or a conductor?

Just a few more questions.  The subway kid’s family put up fliers, searched for him, as you would expect.  You still wonder: what kind of parents does the kid have that make him so unwilling to go home?  Or is he just a messed up kid, messed up like any kid could be, and wearing an additional weight of emotional and mental confusion?

I broke up with my boyfriend last week.  First I froze and sweated and panicked like someone was trying to blow up my airplane, and then I zoned out like I was riding the subway in loops, underground, alone, lost.

Security isn’t in any kind of movement, or transport, or harness, or x-ray scan.  There is security in questions.  Questions, especially those without answers, keep you flexible and working.  If I care enough to ask any questions, I am interesting to myself.  Being lost is very similar to exploring.  The only difference is that when you are lost, you are no longer curious about anything but how to get home.  “Lost” is actually exploring, minus curiosity, plus panic.  Shake well.

Security is in curiosity, and also in knowing people who would call the embassy on you.  People who will pat you down if you try to set yourself on fire.  You need somebody to put up fliers all over the subway.  You need someone to notice that you are lost, even if you have to find your own way back.

Detroit suspect’s family:

Subway riding boy: