Earlier this week, Bret Stephen in the Wall St. Journal published a 9/11 essay I liked: “9/11 and the Struggle for Meaning; An act of evil has been reduced, in our debased parlance, to a ‘tragedy.'”Discussing the search for meaning in the tragic events of 9/11, Stephens wrote “there’s something dangerous …about 9/11 being reduced to a ‘tragedy,” noting
Dangerous because we risk losing sight of what brought 9/11 about. Dangerous because nations should not send men to war in far-flung places to avenge an outrage and then decide, mid-course, that the outrage and the war are two separate things. Dangerous above all because nations define themselves through the meanings they attach to memories, and 9/11 remains, 10 years on, a memory without a settled meaning.
I was in Boston on 9/11, when I looked up at the TV in my office and saw that CNBC was showing a fire in the World Trade Center on an otherwise clear, crisp beautiful fall day in Manhattan. I’ll never forget what happened next.
If we can look beyond “tragedy,” we can, perhaps, find glimmers of positive meaning from 9/11. As others have pointed out, the first responders. And the people inside the World Trade Centers who put themselves at risk to help others escape. The people who came from around the city, from New Jersey and Connecticut, to help. The people on Flight 93 who fought back. The global response, even for a brief moment, that “We are all New Yorkers today” and “We are all Americans today.”
Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to the families and friends directly affected that day, to those who helped and continue to help rebuild lives and rebuild part of New York City cruelly impacted that day.