Three days ago was the 11th anniversary of September 11th, a mind-blowing, horrific and tragic day. Every year, families mourn the loss of loved ones who, for no reason other than the flag on their lawns, or maybe just the geographical location of those lawns, were put to death. I use “put to death” because that’s what it was — an execution. The term “homicide” has some room for accident or mishap. “Execution” is fully and decisively intentional. So it was an execution of innocent citizens who, for all we know, may have been perpetuating a Middle Eastern economy with their trades. They clearly didn’t deserve to have their lives taken. I honor the lost, those who died in the frame of fifty stars and thirteen stripes.
I remember that day — it was the first day of third grade at my private school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Just as the teacher had gotten one of the girls to stop bawling over her separation from her mother, we were instructed to remain seated at our tables. Our parents were coming to pick us up, said the teacher. Sweet deal, I thought. So I waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, my friend’s dad came to get me. This day just keeps getting better. I gleamed. As I strode through the park with my friend, his dad and my twin brother, we spoke of Star Wars. We walked into his house and rushed to the bedroom, glimpsing at the TV, which seemed to be broken. The screen was black and seemed fuzzy. We found a board game and hustled back into the living room only to realize that the TV screen wasn’t black, but was showing a gray image. All gray: a video feed from a helicopter circling the Twin Towers, which lay collapsed, smoke so dark and so expansive you’d think you were watching Lost. Or maybe you wouldn’t think that — but that day meant little more than a play date to a nine-year-old.
So in retrospect, what was the significance of that day? What is the significance of that day now? Well, there is something about tragedy that seems to create community — something about loss that allows us, for one brief instant, to appreciate what we have. Funerals unite families and wars unite countries. But it always seems a melancholy gathering, one in which fifty stars don’t twinkle so bright and thirteen stripes blur together.
Days like September 11th remind us to stop and stare and soak it all in. In 2001, it was a stunned stop, and a frightened stare. I, for one, am still soaking it all in. Appreciate what you have, because it could be gone in an instant. That’s the message — life lasts for a long while and disappears in a fleeting solemn second. So, appreciate your life as it lasts. Not “while,” but “as.” “While” indicates that you have something else going on. Life is all that matters — embrace it every second of every day. Appreciate the lives around you, because death is not dealt based on “deserving.” No one deserved death less than the victims of 9/11.
Instead of mourning death 11 years after, we must learn to honor and celebrate life. Those who died in the attacks wouldn’t want us to suffer in remembrance of their executions for crimes they didn’t commit. We must take life — ours and others’ — seriously every day. Don’t live it like it’s your last, that’s too much of a cliché. How about you live it like it’s your first — your first time meeting the person you love, your first time discovering something you love, your first time visiting a place you love, your first time seeing a sight you love so very much. It’s about what you have, not what you don’t.
Eleven years later, we’re still here though those we love may not be. I invoke the phrase “Never Forget.” I think we should always remember — remember to live and to love, to learn and to listen, to see and to hear, and to touch and to be touched.
Eli Cahan is an LSA sophomore.