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Never forget

Posted by Richard on September 11, 2006

Lady Liberty watching over the twin towers before 9/11

On this anniversary, no words I write could match what Gerard Van der Leun wrote several months ago when United 93 came out. I described it thus:

Nothing else I’ve read comes close to Gerard Van der Leun’s Of a Fire in a Field. I first read it several days ago and was unable to even write about it. I’ve read it several times now, and the impact is still powerful. I don’t recall anything that has ever moved me more.

In the passage that moved me beyond words, and that I quote again today, Van der Leun recalled 9/11 and its aftermath, when he lived in New York:

Inside the wire under the hole in the sky was, in time, a growing hole in the ground as the rubble was cleared away and, after many months, the last fire was put out. Often at first, but with slowly diminishing frequency, all the work to clear out the rubble and the wreckage would come to a halt.

The machinery would be shut down and it would become quiet. Across the site, tools would be laid down and the workers would straighten up and stand still. Then, from somewhere in the pile or the pit, a group of men would emerge carrying a stretcher covered with an American flag and holding, if they were fortunate, a body. If they were not so fortunate the flag covering over the stretcher would be lumpy, holding only portions of a body from which, across the river on the Jersey shore, a forensic lab would try to make an identification and then pass on to the victim’s survivors something that they could bury.

I’m not sure anymore about the final count, but I am pretty sure that most families, in the end, got nothing. Their loved ones had all gone into the smoke and the dust that covered the end of the island and blew, mostly, across the river into Brooklyn where I lived. What happened to most of the three thousand killed by the animals on that day? It is simple and ghastly. We breathed them until the rains came and washed clean what would never be clean again.

. . .

As I did back in May, on this anniversary, I urge you to read the whole thing — and think about the question he asks you at the end.

The final count, apparently, is 2,626 at the WTC and 2,996 total. The latter number is also the name of a website and a fine idea for a tribute:

2,996 is a tribute to the victims of 9/11.

On September 11, 2006, 2,996 volunteer bloggers
will join together for a tribute to the victims of 9/11.
Each person will pay tribute to a single victim.

We will honor them by remembering their lives,
and not by remembering their murderers.

I really meant to sign up for this effort, but other events made me forget. Not to worry — there was no shortage of volunteers. In fact, the list is oversubscribed (more than 3400 bloggers participating), so some victims have more than one blogger paying tribute.

Here’s the entire list of links to the tributes. Take a few moments today to read just a few, won’t you?

And never forget.

First tower falls
Fleeing through the choking dust


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