I watched much of C-Span’s coverage of today’s 9/11 memorial service at Ground Zero in New York City. Blessedly, speeches by politicians were minimal, and the event was devoted to naming those who died in the attacks. Relatives read the names, two speakers at a time, while others in the audience sought out and touched their loved ones’ names cast in bronze tablets that line the reflecting pools that now fill the footprints of the World Trade Center towers.
I was greatly moved by the emotion of the speakers as they read the names and said a few words about their own losses – spouses and siblings, parents and children. As one or another of them choked up, I did, too. I wondered if these people sharing a moment of both personal and public grief knew each other before they arrived at the podium, if they would console one another after leaving the stage. Would they stay in touch? Speak to one another again?
It was clear from the procession of speakers and the long, long list of names they that all kinds of people from many nations died on September 11, 2001. All of them were innocent victims killed for a senseless idea. When we remember them as people with names, jobs, and families, we bring this cataclysmic event back to a human scale. We restore something of their humanity, and our own.
Update 091211: Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher filed this wrap-up of the day’s events: