With the first, emotional, exciting and anticipated week of the NFL in the books, we can reflect on the events leading up to it, under the scope of sports and social history. American sports fans were at the mercy of the NFL for a number of months, waiting for the end of a lockout that threatened their modern pastime and lazy Sundays, attempting to leave us with nothing but baseball and hockey (basketball is much farther off). But lo, the deities of pigskin and AstroTurf have shown their loving embrace, and we can tailgate and yell about pass interference once more. So now that there is football to talk about, lets talk about something completely different.
The first Sunday (an opening game was played on Thursday, but everyone knows that Sunday is king) of football coincided with the marking of the tenth year (someone wrote, and I agree, that ‘anniversary is a little too cute) since the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington. There were flags the size of football fields, chilling renditions of patriotic songs, and a Budweiser commercial. That is what populated my Sunday; red, white, blue and pigskin brown. It was like Memorial Day, but with a different memory. Unfortunately for advertisers and creators of holidays, the September 11th attacks are not something we want to remember or celebrate; that’s not the meaning of “Never Forget”.
We do not want to be reminded of the four passenger airliners that broke the fourth wall, if you will, of safety. The notion of flying safely and easily was turned upside down by a group of peoples experiences with a horrific scenario, where they found themselves helpless inside a 500mph metal tube headed for American landmarks.
We do not want to be reminded of the hour and a half of news coverage where most of the New York Metropolitan Area, and a lot of the country and world, watched live as New York City, my city, was partially rendered to ruins. We had enough of that in the days that followed.
We do not want to be reminded of the image of a plane that we trust to take us around the world flying directly into the symbol of work, the place we all tend to go after a while in school. The Twin Towers were the image of commerce and business, broadcast from Lower Manhattan to the world, and to watch them fall and destroy a lot of people and things that we hold dear in this part of the country is not something we want to remember.
We remember because we don’t want to forget.
We read the names of those lost every year, not because it gets easier, because time heals these wounds, but because we refuse to forget what happened to them when they went to work or onto a flight on an unassuming Tuesday. There aren’t large pools in the footprints of the towers because we felt New York needed another tourist destination, but because there is a feeling amongst New Yorkers that after 10 years, that which went missing on 9/11 is still missing.
You can tell me that big American flags, servicemen on the field, and a great National Anthem by Lady Antebellum is a good way to honor the meaning of the day. The NFL can tell me that these ceremonies, along with the sheer excitement that Week 1 brought us, were a successful 9/11 set of games, and a distraction for those who need it on that day, but I wont believe them. I can’t; there are too many suburbs in New Jersey and Westchester and Long Island and other places that house boys, some that are now men, who couldn’t watch football with their dads or sons. There are too many people who lost a best friend or a mother to tell me that we are healing. I don’t think something like this warrants healing, or remembrance. It just begs not to be forgotten.
I hope you haven’t forgot what happened between 8:46AM and 10:28AM on Sept. 11, 2001, because no amount of football or Budweiser commercials that warm your heart and bring tears to your eyes do not undo the pain and heartache that a little boy felt when he learned that his dad was not coming home. My dad came speeding down my street as I disembarked the bus from middle school that day, doing everything he could to assure me he was safe. The fear that left me; the fear that people felt before finding out their loved one was lost, is something I never wish on anyone. So please, next September 11th, don’t run around waving your flag. Just take a minute from your day (every day, if you wish), and think about what happened to New York, Washington, Boston, Shanksville, Pa., and all the families across the country that have an empty space at the dinner table. Ten years and giant flags don’t heal that.