After several days of watching nearly-nonstop coverage of the anniversary, it is becoming almost reflexive to change the channel when something comes on related to "the event". To be sure, the 10th Anniversary of anything is an important date. The 10th Anniversary of an attack that resulted in the deaths of nearly 3,000 fellow human beings in the span of a couple of hours, and dozens, perhaps hundreds, more (mostly firefighters and other emergency personnel) from exposure to the toxic stew that surrounded the site for months is something you just don't ignore.
Yet, I find myself wanting to.
Like hundreds of my colleagues in both of my chosen professions across many agencies, I responded to the World Trade Center as a member of University Hospital EMS (UH-EMS) that day, performing what individually would be an insignificant role in the management of the sick and injured, though surely was an example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. My total time at the site, either at One Police Plaza (where I was working with my boss, whose job it was to help coordinate the New Jersey EMS response into the City) or at West and Chambers Streets, where the EMS command post combining the top managers for FDNY*EMS and UH-EMS was located, was something under 18 hours. I don't remember the exact times.
I do remember walking in the door to my apartment in Bayonne, NJ, on Wednesday morning, my trouser legs and boots covered in dust, and seeing the relief on my wife's face. I did speak with her sometime during the night (it was very difficult to get a cellular signal at all that day), and she did know that I was safe, but that's not the same thing as knowing I was okay. At least, not until she actually saw me.
I was often the recipient of some of Dave's wisdom, some of it heart-felt, some of it wise cracking. One of his mantras was "fail to plan...plan to fail." Yes, it's almost cliche' but it worked for Dave.
So, now it's ten years later. Maybe I'm just getting old, but I'm finding it harder and harder to square what I saw and did that day and experienced in the weeks and months that followed with all the outpouring of anguish and gnashing of teeth I'm hearing now. (Although, though I can't stand the term "closure", I see less of this now that the mastermind behind the attacks, Osama Bin Laden, was afforded the opportunity to meet his Maker by US Navy SEALS). I realize that with so many people who died, nearly everyone in the area knew somebody who didn't come home that night. The trend I see on places like Facebook, however, leads me to believe that a far higher number of people feel the need to say something, anything, regardless of any lack of personal connection to the day.
As we get farther and farther from September 11th, 2001, there will be fewer folks who were directly or indirectly affected by the events, so that for most people their knowledge of the World Trade Center will be something like my knowledge of Pearl Harbor, which happened almost 30 years before I was born. This is fine. I've always been more of a person who believes that forgetting history condemns us to repeating it.
I just don't want to repeat it in twelve-hour blocks every year on every news and documentary channel on cable, except, maybe, The History Channel.