Dear Mr. President,
Nine years ago I was a sophomore in high school. I woke up before my alarm clock. I remember I was having a dream about drowning. On any other day I probably would have forgotten the last wisps of this dream as the rest of my morning routine replaced it. I went downstairs and ate a bowl of cereal, squinting at the TV because I hadn't bothered to put in my contact lenses. My stepmother told me a plane had hit the twin towers. The rest of the morning was a series of stories, some true, some false, some never to be properly accounted for later. I was safely on the other side of the country from what was happening, but all morning long I could see my own turbulent emotional reactions in the faces of my classmates. We all felt the magnitude of what was going on; even if we didn't yet understand it, even if we didn't experience it the same way that people in New York and DC did. I remember I heard boys just 16 years old calling for blood, wanting to enlist that day and kill whoever had planned the attack.
Nine years later I still remember the images we all saw on TV. I still remember the haunted way my coworkers at the Washington DC bookstore sounded when they told their own tales of that day. I still think about the havoc we rained down upon millions of innocent people in response. I remember the lives we have ruined and displaced, the hundreds of thousands we have murdered. I can't talk about 9/11 without also talking about these shattered lives. There was no number of Afghan or Iraqi civillians we might have killed to bring back those lost on American soil 9 years ago today. Every time I hear 9/11 used to justify these wars we wage as acts of vengeance, I feel tired in a way that I don't think I'm old enough to feel. It all seems so pointless, so tragically, miserably heart breaking and pointless.
You have asked us today to remember the tragic events of 9 years ago. We might choose to remember this day in isolation, to recall nothing of what came before or since, and I understand why many choose this. This day was so shocking, so traumatizing and devastating to so many that I can't ask any one to do more than what they feel they can. But I think we should not choose to remember this day in a vacuum. I think that, no matter how painful its memory is, we should not feel entitled to the belief that we were alone in suffering it, or numb ourselves to the pain so many others were forced to feel as a result. Today I remember the dead, I honor the dead, but I do not imagine that the death toll of September the 11th ended on our shores. I choose to remember all who have died since and all those who continue to suffer for it. Nine years of suffering has not made this day any less tragic. We are nine years older, our hands are nine years bloodier and the death toll just keeps rising.