It seems that every generation has a moment that they reflect upon with great solemnity, poise, and poignancy. Some generations have had multiple events or moments. Some of those events have actually been time periods that spanned the course of days, months, or even years. Regardless of the length of those events and moments, they all are felt deeply by the generation that was most affected by them. That’s not to say that one of these moments is more powerful or impactful than another, but we hold on to the things that impact us the most deeply and personally.
For me and my generation, the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001 may very well be the defining moment of solemnity. Just as past generations can remember where they were when Kennedy was shot or MLK was shot, or war broke out, so most folks who were old enough to remember that fateful September day can remember what they were doing and where they were when they got the news and as the images poured over airwaves and throughout the internet.
This month the September 11th Memorial Museum will open to the public. When I read that, I wondered to myself who might want to go. I know that there will be many who will want to, including myself, but why? Why do we want to go? Probably to remember. The museum will stand as a stark and even harsh reminder to us of what we are capable of as human beings. It will bathe us with images and thoughts that may have dispersed from our minds long ago yet which have plagued and haunted the minds of many whose lives were much more deeply impacted by these events than our own.
I remember going to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. I went by myself, and I was glad to have done that. It wasn’t an experience that I felt like I could share, it was something that I had to experience on my own. That museum impacts each person who enters into it in a different way and I expect that the September 11th Museum will have a similar result. That’s not to say that the tragedy of September 11th and the tragedy of the Holocaust are comparable, but the depth of emotion that they will evoke from those who enter in will be fairly similar, I expect.
It’s not uncommon to revisit the location of tragedies and powerful events. The hotel where MLK was shot has become a museum. Pearl Harbor and the site of the sunken battleships still stands as a reminder to that fateful December day. People visit the beach of Normandy, Dealey Plaza in Dallas, and many other places and they will continue to visit these places. I can only hope that we visit so that we don’t forget, after all, a people who forget the events of the past are destined to repeat those events.
I am curious to check out the museum, but I don’t know when I will be ready. I am grateful that our country has felt it important enough to have designated a museum for it, my hope and prayer is that the poignancy and power of the events of that September day will live on through this museum, not in a sadistic and tortuous way, but in a way that helps us all remember what happened and never forget those who were lost along the way.