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This past summer, I had a long chat with a young artist -- still in high school! -- about 9/11 and how she has experienced it as history.

It was wild.
This is someone who wasn't born when it happened, and spent her entire life under its shadow, because the adults in her life were rightly traumatized by it.

But she wasn't. She *couldn't* be.
It reminded me, actually, of how the Challenger disaster was taught to my generation. In my elementary school, we did memorials for the Challenger *every year* I was there (1989-1996, pre-k through 5). But it happened when I wasn't even 18 months old. It meant nothing to me.
She told me how some of her classmates would roll their eyes at it. "Why do we have to do this *every year*?" They don't really understand what ongoing relevance it's supposed to have for their lives in 2019, when the world is in a *very* different place.
I am of two minds.
First, I think there is quite a lot of space between "never forget" and "always remember," a space we seem largely unaware of. A commentator on this thread called it "opening the wound every year," which I think is as apt a description as any.
I've seen people refer to it as a "sacred day." And I get it; I was in high school. When I got home that day, everyone else in my family was away; I watched the footage, alone, over and over and over and over again. That day is etched in my brain, the same as yours.
For part of me, it *does* feel sacred -- and by sacred, I mean "set apart." It was a day outside of time, a place that always lingers on the edges of my consciousness, that still infects my dreams.

But it can't -- and shouldn't -- be that way for everyone forever.
I think kids are *right* to question why this needs to be done every single year; NYS even made a rule about an annual moment of silence in schools -- for kids who have no experience of the trauma.

But, like I said, I am of two minds.
I come from a religious upbringing, and part of me -- *part* of me -- draws a line from the memorial of 9/11 to Jewish institutional structures of memory: Purim, Hanukkah, Passover, and modern remembrances of the Holocaust, just to name a few
The purpose there is, explicitly, *memory*, but also community building and the inheritance of identity by making sure there is always an understanding of what the community has suffered and how it has triumphed.

*that* also comes as a necessity for a historically persecuted and exiled community struggling to maintain their own identity in the face of assimilation across continents and millennia. We are in no such position.
9/11 can never mean to our children what it meant to us, & every protestation of NEVER FORGET presages further corollaries: that the US is always under threat, that we must Fight To Preserve Our Way Of Life, and so many other manipulative attitudes we inherited from the Bush era.
We will never forget because I don't think we *can*, in the same way we haven't forgotten and still carry the wounds of the Civil War. It was a traumatic moment for the nation that fundamentally altered our course forward and in many ways broke us.
Kids do need to understand that. They do need to know that things weren't always like this, and that our present national crisis began 18 years ago with an act of unfathomable destruction and the murder of thousands.

But I'm not sure we can expect them to mourn.
It's hard to hear kids say they don't care about 9/11. It's hard to know that something that looms so large in our minds, memories, & imaginations is nothing but a historical event to them, the way Kennedy's assassination is to ppl my age. Interesting, tragic even. But not real.
*We* will always remember. But they won't. Not the way we do, its urgency receded, the emotions unknown to them except in abstract. They didn't call their relatives to make sure they were okay. None of their friends didn't show up at school the next day bc someone was missing.
And that's okay. It's normal. It's *right*. It's how time marches on, how communities heal: by letting themselves.

But our insistence of making every anniversary another opportunity to open the wound again, and indeed, to hope we cut our children in the process, isnt healthy.
Let them move on, even if we can't.
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