This summer, we visited the re-designed Smithsonian Museum of American History. The new military history exhibit is beautifully done, conscious of both the role of warfare in our history and its cost.
But it was the end that stopped me cold. The final section covers the War on Terror, and includes a large chunk of the World Trade Center wreckage. Nine years later, it still brought me to tears. I should have known better than to think that feeling would ever pass. When you grow up close to New York, work there and go to school there, as I did, the Trade Center was always just there. I used the towers as a point of orientation whenever I lost my direction, because it was visible from almost anywhere. Seeing its wreckage as a piece in a museum, and knowing all that was lost with it, is a powerful thing.
This wound will never close. It’s part of us now. Throughout my childhood, my parents would still speak about the trauma of Pearl Harbor and the war that followed (a war in which my father fought, as some of my friends now fight in a new war) like they happened the day before. I suspect I’ll feel the same way about 9/11 when I’m 80, and it’s probably best that way. We should never forget, even if the best we can do is just remember those who were lost, and pray for those left behind.
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