Is This 9/11 Anniversary Different? Some Say Yes

Commentary — On the 11th 9/11 anniversary, at least here in New York, it feels a bit different … and if you’ve perceived a seismic shift in the feeling of this sad day, it appears it’s not just you.

Last year’s 9/11 anniversary was the tenth, and it was notable because a decade had passed, even if it didn’t feel like it — and in some ways, it still doesn’t. As a native and lifelong New Yorker, an ill-considered decision this morning to watch archival footage of the World Trade Center collapsing again, taking with it nine people from my village alone and hundreds from surrounding towns, made it feel like eleven days hadn’t passed, nevermind eleven years.

And in ways, on the 9/11 anniversary, it’s still all there — muted and a replay, but the horror, the nausea and the fear buzzes in again, though this time watching we know how it all turns out. But in other ways, it feels like we’ve kind of hit a milestone and moved past it, not forgetting, but in a way making peace with the amalgam of life in America after that day.

9/11 widower Charles G. Wolf spoke to the issue today as families gathered to mark the sad day. Wolf describes how America seems to less mourn and more mark the tragedy, which feels like different thing. Wolf, whose wife Katherine was one of the thousands killed at the World Trade Center, says:

“We’ve gone past that deep, collective public grief … And the fact that the politicians will not be involved, to me, makes it more intimate, for the families. … That’s the way that it can be now.”

Former New York State Governor George Pataki echoed a similar sentiment, one of transcending the grief that seemed so enormous in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks. While it seemed for a long time the grief never could possibly abate, anyone who has loved someone and lost them also recognizes the moment when they’re able to remember that person without the pall of grief surrounding them:

“As the names are read out, I just listen and have great memories of people who I knew very well who were on that list of names. It was very emotional … It’s time to take the next step, which is simply to continue to pay tribute.”

Do you think the 11th anniversary of 9/11 feels different than the 10th?