Never Fucking Forget

Tomorrow we're going to perform the rituals and ablutions of pretending we care about the 3000 that died that day 20 years ago. I will be in a northern Wisconsin city, where firefighters and others will lead a walk to a local park and bells will ring at specific moments: when tower 1 fell, when the 2nd did, when the plane crashed.

I appreciate the rituals of grief and loss: we should mourn.

I appreciate when others, outside of New York, recognize how tremendous and traumatic that day - and so many days that followed - were.

Rest of country temporarily feels deep affection for New York, wrote The Onion's wiseasses. It was the first thing I laughed at. I was grateful for that laugh. 

They were right.

In response, people went to shop to help our economic recovery. They funded a memorial and a museum I will never, ever go to. Steelworkers and others flew into help. Over time, over the years, many of those workers - in steel, firefighters, EMTS - died of what they inhaled that day. We started taking our shoes off to fly, taking only 3 ounces of anything in a carry-on, and got used to being patted down in unnecessary ways.

We changed an awful lot out of caution, out of fear, out of grief.

Last year when tens of thousands of New Yorkers died, we barely noticed. I watched social media carefully; ex pat NYers grieved out loud; no one else seemed to notice. Governor Evers shut the state down in hope of saving lived and then the fights began.

Fights about the shutdown.

Fights about funding the unemployed.

Fights about rights. Fights about freedom.

Fights about masks. Then, fights about vaccination.

They're all still happening on this day of national grief.

As if 3000+ New Yorkers killed dramatically and horrifically were worth something, but 30 thousand New Yorkers who died alone in hospital beds are not.

The 1200 people who died yesterday in Florida don't seem to matter one bit. Florida has lost more people this past week than we lost in NYC that September day.

Every year I tell myself I will stop writing things about that Tuesday. Every time someone tells me "#neverforget" I want to quit the rituals, to forget intentionally, precisely, responsively. But I can't. I'm trapped amongst flag waving, anti immigrant, anti queer, anti semitic, anti black, anti Dem, anti vaxx and anti mask blue lives matter folks who absolutely must remind themselves to remember, but remember what, exactly? 

Country temporarily feels deep affection for New York. 

Instead, this country has used my city's grief - the grief, let me remind you, of queer, black, Jewish, Latine, Muslim New Yorkers, who all live cheek by jowl on the regular - to further a vision of America that doesn't include us or the wretched freedoms we practice back East.

So every year when they tell me to never forget, I think -- I can't. I wish I could. I loved those goddamned eyesores of towers and sitting at the top of them was the closest thing I knew to God besides maybe the ocean or a big Wisconsin sky. I remember the plume and the smell and the last time I transferred through those lobbies of glorious marble. I remember not so much liking a NYC where soldiers with rifles hung out in Penn Station in clumps. I remember the flyers and I remember walking home one day from the subway in a group when one of us answered her cellphone and listened and crumpled in the midst of us when she got the news. It was late enough that everyone knew everyone was dead but they were still testing body parts and calling survivors, and she was one. The air still stunk of creosote and poison. And on that sidewalk next to a bodega a half block from an on ramp, we surrounded her, offered water, made a seat of backpacks and sweaters, and asked her what she needed. I remember every face, every hair and every wrinkle on every face in that crowd, all of us doing whatever we could for this newborn made of grief.

If you weren't there, mind yourself. I don't give a shit what you think happened that day or how you think we should remember it. 

Instead I will remember my town that continues but also is no more, and I will remember how little some of you all actually care of it and its people.

Rest of country temporarily uses New York as a milkcrate from which to spew attitudes not embraced by New York. 

Remember yourselves. I can't ever forget. I'd give everything for a second of forgetting.




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