September 11, 2001 was a Tuesday, and as has often been noted, it was a picture perfect late summer day on the East Coast.
On that day we lived in Evanston, IL. Just ten days earlier Helen and I had enjoyed a wonderful wedding celebration with family and friends. Helen's family from Hong Kong was supposed to fly home that Tuesday, but in the end they remained in the US for several more unplanned days. At work that day nobody could get anything done, especially with rampant rumors that Chicago's Sears Tower was next. We all just stood around the television in the conference room, and eventually went home early.
Almost three years later, Helen and I moved to New York City just as the GOP was preparing to exploit the fears of 9/11 at its nominating convention. "America's Mayor" Rudy Giuliani offered up a particularly bombastic speech at Madison Square Garden that year; by that point the supposed link between September 11 and Saddam Hussein was mighty tenuous, and those weapons of mass destruction were nowhere to be found. It didn't matter. The Republicans had no shame about utilizing the trauma of a city they loathed to cement four more years in power.
The first anniversary of September 11 during our New York years took place on a Saturday. I watched the reading of the names on television, after debating the propriety of whether I should go down to Ground Zero instead. Compared to many others I was barely affected in 2001, and it felt presumptuous to count myself among the mourners. In 2005 and 2006 I was still not sure how to observe the day, either as a New Yorker or simply as a human being. This divide between those who were--and those who weren't--will never be erased.
This year there's a greater emphasis than ever on moving beyond grief. Why now, at six years? My best guess is that it's because we've cycled back to Tuesday, arguably the most "normal" day of the entire week. Every five years will present the chance for an artificial milestone, but that's not available now. Perhaps our entire country has reached a new stage of grief, in which we never forget what happened, but try to move on and make the world a better place. I hope so.