Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Flags, hats badges, and notes left
at the Flight 93 temporary memorial  
 Since the anniversary of 9-11 has been set aside as a National Day of Service our Habitat for Humanity office spent today on a team-build working at one of the houses. Service seems to me like a fitting way to recognize the day. Like nearly everyone else I have my vivid memories of the morning itself: the cloudless blues sky, being a just-turned-12-year-old-in-brand-new-school-clothes, finding out over aol instant message to turn on the news, seeing the second tower hit on live TV, and sitting in my friends' backyard that afternoon watching for the occasional military plane in that clear blue sky.
The crash site of United Flight 93 in Shanksville Pennsylvania became a National Park just 6 weeks after Sept 11. A sort of spontaneous memorial began as well as people began to leave candles, notes, and flowers - much like they did in New York. But since the site is in the middle of a field instead of a city, the temporary memorial in PA continued to grow for the past decade. The park opened the official memorial last year and it's peaceful, beautiful, and well done. And the archive of items brought in to be protected from the rain continues to grow. One of my history classes went up to see the temporary memorial and the amount of things left by visitors was captivating.

Items left at the flight 93 site in PA in 2010
My classmates and I debated the rhyme or reason of the items left as mementos. Some made sense, but others struck us as entirely random. Perhaps they hold some logical significance to those who left them or maybe they really are random. I think the best explanation is something along the lines of the Jewish tradition of Cairn, where you leave a pebble on a gravestone when you visit. Hailing back to ebenezers of piled stones to remind the Israelites of their past. We leave stones, or flowers to show we were there and that we remember. Or perhaps you leave a toy or a rosary or a watch or your signature. The point is that we remember. We build memorials and give days of service, presidents give speeches and people change their facebook, and we set pebbles or mementos at the resting place of heroes to show that we remember. Because somehow remembering the dead is part of what makes us uniquely human. 
And the more we remember how human everyone else is, the less we would kill each other - at least that's my hope.

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