Today the once a year ritual began again,
As it has every year for, now, twelve years:
Flags lowered, hearts heavy,
A national requiem is held as we swap the stories.
“Where were you?” “How did you find out?”
As much as we want to move on,
As much as we might stand opposed
To so much of what has been done these last twelve years,
All in the name of lofty ideals,
Like “justice,” “freedom,” and “security,”
Still those stories and the memories of that morning
Rip through us like a searing blade.
The critic inside says “justice cannot be served by vengeful violence,
And freedom cannot be ensured by a state of police surveillance,
Nor can security be real for a land
Where trust has been lost.”
But on this day, once a year, as the memories resurface
And the stories are once again told,
The combination of fear and guilt and sadness
Make those critics’ inner voices feel hopelessly lost and adrift.
How can we go back, now that we have come this far?
Are we not doomed to carry this course through to its end,
Even though we know not what that end is or looks like,
And if we did would probably shudder and say, “Surely we could never do that!”
No, on this day, the voices of our inner natures are silenced,
And that deep, gasping inhale grants all the permission that is necessary
For the lumbering, drunken train of our present selves
To continue down the path we took when the switch was flipped
On a clear September morning twelve years gone by.
And in despair our heavy hearts come to see that it may perhaps be too late for us,
That the requiem may in fact be for us.
For how can we disavow the legacy of three thousand of our own taken away in the blinking of an eye?
And how can we not follow them to their bitter end in fire and smoke?