“No day shall erase you from the memory of time,” Virgil, The Aeneid,
National September 11 Memorial Museum
Ten days after 9/11 my father’s heart exploded, his life collapsing in a matter of moments. We could not find each other in our own familiar streets. We could not ask now how to meet him in the ash. Old-school Catholics, we prayed, “Adiemus. Adiemus.”
There were two of me, one loving, one late in loving. I set aside the national mourning, which I could not withstand. When you said he can rest now, asked how you could help, that brought no calm, and no peace came when you recalled your own lost ones.
No new perspective came when news returned again, again to the three thousand gone, to acts of heroism, to horrors visited upon survivors, to tender personal interviews news cycle after news cycle that I took in while ignoring, ignoring the entire wrecked nation.
Today my sister, youngest of the five children, has died before her turn. She has ended her participation in our grim middle-age sibling tag game of electronic messaging, burning each other with teasing grief, our way to touch but not be done with familial anniversaries of mistaking one obliterated story for another.
How many further words are farther out of reach. How few near are terribly nearer. The expression of tribute the nation leaves for the nation is Virgil’s martial words, as out of context as severed heads in snow. No monuments stand long, and in that I find consoling bitter satisfaction.
Ten days after your deaths (and only incidentally your lives) were lovingly commemorated, I did, I did turn off the tube, unplugged you three-thousand dead from my living memory. The two of me, one loving and one late in loving, called to mind their names, words towering over all other inscriptions. Hers was Wendy, meant to echo his. Wendell.