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Updating reflection on 9/11


It requires ironclad willpower not to submit to the deluge of remembrances leading up to this Saturday’s 20th anniversary of 9/11.
The advertisements for specials on cable programming seem relentless as all angles are considered including hearing from the kids who were in the classroom when George W. Bush was alerted to events via a whisper.
I am not complaining about the coverage per se. We must never forget that tragic day and those who lost their lives whether it be in New York City, Washington, or our own state of Pennsylvania. Already there has been and will be much worthy recollection and resolution shared even within the pages of this newspaper.
I myself dusted off the story I had written, “Postmortem,” which received the Arch and Bruce Brown Foundation Award for LGBTQ+ short fiction based on a historical event.
Perhaps it’s a good part of me that remains traumatized, even after all this time like so many the world over, who still catch a churn in our stomachs with the ad nauseum clips of airplanes crashing into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. Tears still well up as victims’ personal stories are revisited along with their helplessness and heroism as they faced their fates. I am left wondering how their families are even able to cope year after year with the barrage of focused attention and this year’s in particular.
It all seems like it was yesterday, right? Most of us can recall the moment we heard the news (at a Volvo service department in Doylestown for me). We were glued to the TV all day if not all night too, our world taking a turn into the unknown as we hugged our loved ones just a bit tighter. And as each anniversary made its mark, it became part of our passage from summer into autumn, bushytailed with back to school and anticipatory of the new football as well as arts and culture season.

The long aftermath has been costly. First in the lives of hundreds of Ground Zero first responders who have succumbed to diseases including Hodgkin’s lymphoma and pulmonary fibrosis. Then there are survivors who still face a myriad of maladies from chronic pain to dementia. Lest we forget the thousands of servicemen and servicewomen who died in Afghanistan and the thousands more injured, who were there because we as a nation needed to assail our terrorist attackers and discourage those who would offer them refuge. The ironic and poignant timing of the U.S. withdrawal from Kabul is not lost on anyone.
Twenty years on, Patriot Day has to be observed in the context of what we face in 2021. We are grappling with a deadly Delta variant of COVID-19. We are picking up the pieces after Ida which proved deadly and destructive to our region.
To best honor those we lost, let’s place a moratorium on the divisive rhetoric seen in school board meetings and in the halls of Congress and those in Harrisburg. Save it for the ballot box in November and every November for that matter.
Let’s strive for concrete acts, no matter how small, to help those in most need of relief now. Let’s welcome Afghan refugees who land at PHL into our communities. Let’s do our part to combat the virus spread in all of our counties. Let’s join other nations to combat climate change on this one earth.
Let’s return to love of family, friends, neighbors, colleagues and in service to strangers. Even in the midst of a pandemic, our actions can still show that we are hugging them tight.

Patriot Day