SieffstarI have written about it every year since that day, Sept. 11, 2001. And by now, it would feel wrong, if I didn't.

Archived Story

Jessica Sieff: An observation on a day that needs to be observed

Published 11:11am Thursday, September 10, 2009

I have written about how I remember the day itself, where I was when I first heard, what happened every moment after, what it has meant to me and what I can only imagine it has meant to others.

Every year, the same ritual. Pull out the box with the magazines and the newspapers and the clippings and the DVD documentaries and feature films to come afterward. Watch round after round of archived news footage. Every year I think about what the day should stand for. What does it all mean now? I think that’s really the point of recognizing events that have shaken us to our core.

This year, a new perspective.

This year, I felt an intense wanting … to go back. The footage in my mind rewinding and the imagery of all of those people disappearing from over the crest of the Brooklyn Bridge. Going back inside a perfectly untouched tower. Getting off each plane. Hugging their loved ones before going home.

And I wanted them all back.

I imagine it is the same with every large, tragic, impacting world event. The sense of innocence that was lost forever on the day the Japanese took it from a young America at Pearl Harbor, longed for by that generation every day after. The day bullets claimed soldiers at Normandy changed the course of battle forever. A piece of humanity ceasing to exist, never living beyond the occurrence of the Holocaust.

Each of those events and all those like them, a wound in our very frail armor.

They say that wounds heal. And I suppose they do. They talked about it a lot after 9/11. How to move on, how to cope, how to deal. The first year, the fifth year after the attacks, as a nation we checked on our wounds. Our broken pieces.

Most often, I think, when we are wounded … really wounded … hurt to the very core of our nature – to where it has the ability to change us as a person – we choose to bandage our wounds, wait for them to scar and move on.

In effect, we let them become as much a piece of us as a limp that could have been prevented had the bone been set right and stayed off of. We simply accept them as one of our realities and tell ourselves that we have dealt with them and move on.

When we have been utterly abused or damaged or wounded, we assign some permanence. We do whatever is necessary to help us sleep at night – despite what has been done to us.

Wounds can scar. But they do heal. When we care for them.

We should not accept ourselves as broken, leaving the wounds open and waiting for them to scar.  Rather we should work to heal them. Not just wait for them to heal themselves. Sure, there might be a mark left on our tattered armor -but it will be just that. A mark. Not a mangling.

Sometimes, it feels like we haven’t healed from September 11 at all.

That is when I ache for the victims and their families the most. I think of those who lost their lives that day and I wonder what their laughs were like. What their favorite holidays were. How their loved ones felt when they came into a room. I want them all back and the towers back and the world back to how it was.

Sometimes, it feels like we haven’t healed at all. We’re just waiting to feel some sense of what was lost. We are all walking around amidst dust that has yet to settle. Injured and angry and bitter. We sit beneath a capital rife with infighting. Political parties that could not be more determined to work against each other. We take each other’s money, allow each other to divulge in sensationalism rather than democracy and we abandon conscience.

We are quick to blame, quicker to flinch at random violence, the sound of low flying planes, quicker to look bitterly at those who are different from us. Yes indeed, 9/11 wounded a people.

And I would imagine … the most deviant of enemies would find the most divine of pleasures in watching their adversary succumb to such wounds.

Where steps were not taken to protect the American people from a force so unexpected – a brand of terrorism that had until then only been felt, in truth by other nations -we don’t try to build anew. We look back and we blame. We revisit the mistake, rather than repair the damage.

That is not to say that we are not a resilient people … especially those families who wake up every day in the absence of those they love.

It is just an observation, on this day to be observed. That in any situation, our own haunts, our wounds, need not define us. There is, “just a choice,” said former English Prime Minister Tony Blair.  “Defeat it or be defeated by it. And defeat it we must.”

Jessica Sieff is a reporter for the Niles Daily Star. Reach her at

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