September 11 Rituals
September 11, 2019 10:52 AM   Subscribe

Is there something specific you do every September 11 to mark the anniversary, beyond reflecting on the day or talking to others about your memories? For example, do you visit a specific place or read the same piece of writing?

This came up in a discussion with friends and we were divided about half and half, with no connection to how close we were to the attacks, personal loss, our age, whether we had kids, etc.

It made me curious because I had thought I was a little overly sentimental for doing so. I listen to The Rising and somehow it makes me feel connected to the version of me I was when experiencing (and struggling with) that time in history, like I can somehow comfort myself in retrospect.

(No need to share specifically what you do to mark the day if it’s too personal, and of course you don’t have to be in the US or American, or have been alive at the time of the attacks to be affected by them, so this question is for everyone.)
posted by sallybrown to Grab Bag (36 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
I read all of Tomato Nation's (Sarah Bunting) 9/11 essays, especially the one titled, "For Thou Art With Us" from the actual day. She usually writes one every year.
posted by Aquifer at 10:56 AM on September 11, 2019 [11 favorites]

I often reread John Ford's 110 Stories around this time of year.
posted by ottereroticist at 11:04 AM on September 11, 2019 [3 favorites]

I start with reading the entire Wikipedia entry, all the way through. Then I'll click on an additional aspect or person, which will lead me down a rabbit hole for a while. Then I'll check the original newspaper coverage, which is almost always free, and then Time magazine, and then maybe the Metafilter thread, until I've remembered all the details for another year.
posted by Melismata at 11:04 AM on September 11, 2019 [3 favorites]

I go outside and look at the sky. I have a lot of vivid memories of that day, but my most vivid one is of looking up at the sky and it being the most beautiful blue I'd ever seen (before or since). It seemed so incongruous that such a horrifying day could be so beautiful, and so I choose to remember the beauty.
posted by kevinbelt at 11:08 AM on September 11, 2019 [23 favorites]

I have gone back and re-read some of the MeFi posts and comments; I spent so much time here and it was a huge source of articles, links, and community.

good question, thank you.
posted by theora55 at 11:13 AM on September 11, 2019

Yes, that blue, blue sky....
I always make special note of the weather every September 11.
posted by bookmammal at 11:23 AM on September 11, 2019 [10 favorites]

The sky was just so f*&$ing blue, so so so blue.

I work across the river and for an organization that was heavily impacted, so I don't have to seek out reminders. Life is a reminder.

One thing I am thankful for is that we don't have to ride into that damn hole every time we use the WTC PATH anymore. I hated that stupid hole more than anything ever.
posted by pilot pirx at 11:24 AM on September 11, 2019 [8 favorites]

Sometimes I read the MeFi thread, though I hadn’t yet discovered Mefi at the time.
posted by Night_owl at 11:27 AM on September 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

Also, during my daily commute, I notice all the flags that are at half-mast. (I have not yet seen a flag that is not at half-mast on this day.)
posted by Melismata at 11:30 AM on September 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

Gardening. I was working in an office building in Manhattan 18 years ago, and now I try to do something gardening-related on this date. (Today's task: pruning my archnemesis, the barbed bougainvillea.) Gets me outside, out of my head, and gardening is an intrinsically optimistic practice. When I can't physically do the labor, I look at seed catalogs and gardening books or websites. See also: certain May Sarton poetry.
posted by Iris Gambol at 11:34 AM on September 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

Not exactly a ritual, but last night I felt the urge to rewatch You Are Here: A Come From Away Story, the film about the Newfoundlanders who opened their homes and hearts to the trans-Atlantic passengers diverted there when the US closed their airspace.
posted by HillbillyInBC at 11:36 AM on September 11, 2019 [5 favorites]

I go and sit by the Capitol and gaze at it.

If it is not a workday, I go to the National Gallery and to see the Constitution and the Declaration.
posted by jgirl at 11:37 AM on September 11, 2019 [3 favorites]

The Real Heroes Are Dead
A love story.

By James B. Stewart, in the February 11, 2002 issue of The New Yorker. Bring tissues.
posted by MonkeyToes at 11:50 AM on September 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

I go outside and look at the sky. I have a lot of vivid memories of that day, but my most vivid one is of looking up at the sky and it being the most beautiful blue I'd ever seen (before or since). It seemed so incongruous that such a horrifying day could be so beautiful, and so I choose to remember the beauty.

This is also what I do. It was the most beautiful, breathtakingly perfect fall day--it seemed so impossible that such a thing could be happening--and that is what I remember the most. So each year I go outside and notice, really notice, the weather, and think about where I was then.
posted by epanalepsis at 11:53 AM on September 11, 2019 [10 favorites]

I am from the Boston area (though I live in Canada now), and that morning I was curled up with my utterly beloved boyfriend at the time who had just moved to the midwest and flown back the night before to pick up his car.

We haven't seen each other's faces since 2002 (he lives even farther away than he did then!), but we check in every year on this day.
posted by wellred at 11:53 AM on September 11, 2019 [3 favorites]

I literally just talked about this in a thread on the blue.

The Sarah Bunting/Tomato Nation blog check is one thing I do. I also repost something I posted on my own blog on the 10th Anniversary; this is pretty much all I ever want to say. It talks about how I started canning tomatoes the same week as the anniversary of the attacks, and why I chose to do that; it also talks about some of the things I heard and saw then.

Another ritual that I've come to cherish isn't one of my own - for the past 17 years now, my best friend has sent me a text first thing in the morning every September 11th just to tell me that she loves me.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:00 PM on September 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

My mother was teaching at Pace University that day, just a few blocks away from the Towers. A couple of years after, she developed chronic myeloid leukemia. Of course, we can't exactly prove it was caused by the Towers, but we have no family history of any type of leukemia. (She was actually fortunate; a few years previously they developed Gleevec, which is basically a miracle drug, so now it's more or less a manageable chronic condition.) So I call my mom on this day.

Thank you for this question, btw: this morning a Facebook friend from the Bay Area posted a sneering remark about how he was tired of "National Fetishization of Tragedy Day," and I wound up in a, um, spirited discussion with him about it. I was far more upset at that than I probably had a right to be. So this thread feels like an antidote to that.
posted by holborne at 12:02 PM on September 11, 2019 [3 favorites]

Not every year, but I like to revisit Colson Whitehead's Lost and Found
posted by Mchelly at 12:05 PM on September 11, 2019 [3 favorites]

It's not by design, and it happens purely by chance, but I notice a Monarch butterfly.

That day I had to travel by train to the city, in the early afternoon. The train was empty. I remember riding past all this goldenrod beside the tracks, and seeing the Monarch butterflies flittering about. It's my strongest memory of that day.
posted by Capt. Renault at 12:07 PM on September 11, 2019 [5 favorites]

I always think of FDNY chaplain Fr. Mychal Judge, who was victim # 0001. He was quite a character, and is known for "his" prayer:
Lord, take me where you want me to go,
let me meet who you want me to meet,
tell me what you want me to say,
and keep me out of your way.
It is a useful, heartfelt philosophy of how to move through the world that emerged after 9/11.

Here's NPR's 2011 story on Fr. Judge: (CW: picture of dying priest being carried by five firemen) Since 2001, his sexuality has become more widely discussed, and is now an open factor in the process of canonizing him as a saint (see this National Catholic Reporter piece from 2017).

I carry Fr. Judge's prayer on a scrap of paper in my wallet: it's a very pragmatic, humble message that really resonates with me.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:23 PM on September 11, 2019 [10 favorites]

Of course, we can't exactly prove it was caused by the Towers, but we have no family history of any type of leukemia.

You almost certainly already know this, but just in case...CML is one of the conditions covered by the WTC Health Program; I believe your mom would also be entitled to compensation from the Zadroga Fund.
posted by praemunire at 12:29 PM on September 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

It may be kind of fucked-up but I always watch the documentary 102 Minutes that Changed America [Vimeo][Full Documentary]. The film depicts, in virtually real-time, the New York-based events of the attacks primarily using raw footage from mostly amateur citizen journalists, focusing mainly on the reactions of New York inhabitants during the incident.

You see everything through the eyes of various cameras, recordings, footage. You hear radio calls, you see people talking over the recordings of their camcorders and cell phones. Something about it feels very real and honest and it's not as curated as so many of the other documentaries I've watched over the years.

It is not an easy watch, but it just feels important to me to acknowledge this day by seeing it through the eyes of people who were there.
posted by Fizz at 12:34 PM on September 11, 2019 [12 favorites]

You know, Fizz, I don't think I can watch that kind of thing yet.

We went to the 9/11 Museum a couple of years ago, and it was really draining being surrounded by objects and images and so many screens showing the towers falling over and over and over.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:48 PM on September 11, 2019 [3 favorites]

I work in finance, and this year I was on a call when the moment of silence came over the floor. I, as I do every time this happens, stopped the call.

Trading floors are loud, bustling places. The only time we observe silence is on 9/11 for one minute. No one answers calls, talks or even really moves. We pause and remember colleagues, parents, friends. We are starting to pass along the tradition to the next generation, who were too young to be personally impacted, but that's the funny thing isn't it, our whole world has so radically changed since that moment.

The least we can do is pause.
posted by larthegreat at 1:15 PM on September 11, 2019 [13 favorites]

I re-read my cousin's profile in the New York Times Portraits of Grief series.
posted by terooot at 1:48 PM on September 11, 2019 [12 favorites]

I always light a candle at night before I go to sleep, because when it happened, I lit a candle and sat on my parents front steps every night for at least a week, maybe a month. My dad is a retired FDNY chief - he wasn’t working that day but he went down to help shortly after the first tower fell. I was so frightened for him and so heartbroken. I was in 8th grade and on the bus ride home; listening to the news, I realized all I knew was that my dad worked in “the city” - no idea as to where his firehouse was or if he was on that day or not.

Like most of us I will never forget that day. I don’t have anything that I necessarily read or watch or listen to, but it always hits me in a profound way. I cried this morning when one of my colleagues spoke over the loud speaker - the children in my school, some of whom are the same age I was back then, really can’t understand - they weren’t even born yet.

I cried again just a few minutes ago, watching the cast of Come From Away performing on “behind the tiny desk” (is that what’s it’s called? Something like that.)
posted by firei at 1:56 PM on September 11, 2019 [5 favorites]

It's not an every year thing, but I find a lot of comfort in this excerpt from After the Rain performed at sunrise on the 54th floor of one of the new World Trade Center buildings.
posted by ChuraChura at 4:14 PM on September 11, 2019

To get a better sense of Metafilter, go to the archive for Sept 2001, not just the main thread.

If you can give blood, that's a great way to remember the fallen and help the living.
posted by theora55 at 6:03 PM on September 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

I first found Metafilter a few days after the event, from a link to the live thread. And I found A Time of Gifts
by Stephen Jay Gould in the NYT a few weeks later. I read it when I need to be reminded of the importance of human kindness and small acts. And of a dear friend, now dead, I shared it with in 2001. She made the best apple brown bettys and other gifts of love. "Twelve apple brown bettys into the breach" became a catchphrase for us.
posted by eerie magi at 7:19 PM on September 11, 2019 [3 favorites]

I try and remind people that September 11 is not the bullshit jingoistic raree show it's turned into, but that's because as a brown person, I (and people like me) experience that day and its aftermath a lot differently.

I try and remember everyone who died - the people in the planes, the WTC, the Pentagon, whose deaths were turned into an excuse for an unceasing bullshit war we're still fighting nearly two decades later, and the thousands upon thousands of Iraqi and Afghan people who paid the price for the WH's warmongering and the American people's gullibility.

I check in with my American friends who are POC, especially my Muslim ones, because September 11 is often a day when they deal with even more bigoted bullshit than normal.

I'm sorry if this isn't the answer you wanted. I do grieve for the people who died in NYC, truly. But the real loss is what that day did to the world.
posted by Tamanna at 7:57 PM on September 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

This is almost certainly not appropriate for all but I reread the 9/11 issue of The Onion. In my opinion, it was a brilliant blend of poignant and absurd content. One of my favorite parts was the tv listings. There were programs like Animal Planet “Sharks: Terrorists of the Sea” and “Fuck Everything: Here Is Some Zebra Footage.”

In college, I took a class on comedy and part of it was about how after the horror of WWII and the Holocaust, some people thought comedy was dead - how can we ever laugh again when reality is so gutting? For me, that publication illustrated how we’ll find something to laugh at even when it seems impossible.
posted by kat518 at 7:57 PM on September 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

I'm with Tamanna. I remember the brutal wars that were justifiedin its name. The bigotry. The police action. So so so many more Innocents died in Iraq in the name of those 3000...

I try to remember the scale. It was obviously a terrifying and horrific thing, but the scale compared to so many other terrible things that we just take for granted....
posted by wooh at 8:58 AM on September 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

i listen to the rising too, and i don't care how sentimental it might be. each to their own. i remember reading a vicious take down of the album and it made me sad like there's only one way to remember.

yesterday, on my commute, i saw an elderly man standing with a big american flag by the side of the road. he was there around 6:30am and was still there around 12 hours later. i wondered if he went home in-between. and i did consider what his motivations might be. but it did give me a lump in the throat in the morning, exacerbated by the fact dawn had not fully broken.

saying all this, i neglected to listen to the rising yesterday despite thinking about it during the day. soon it will be 20 years.

on 9/10 we spoke with our 13 year old about our experiences of the day which were affected in-directly (flights canceled). he couldn't get his head round the logistics of how all the planes were landed by ATC and where all the people went stranded in gander, wichita etc.
posted by iboxifoo at 10:16 AM on September 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

I still get a jolt when I see the date 9-11 or September 11 written on anything. It takes me right back to what I saw and how I felt that day (short version, I saw the smoke from the burning Pentagon while working on getting home to Virginia from my job in Maryland). So, like others, since the beautiful sky on the day sticks in my head, contrasted with the smoke of the Pentagon that I knew meant people had died or were terribly injured, I too try to make a point to look at the sky at some point in the day to think about the people who were lost. Also, Flight 93 was headed for DC, so I know it could have been worse, and that flight also connects in my mind to the sky. Since I saw the musical "Come From Away" (if you can, I highly recommend it), the songs from it tend to serve as a kind of soundtrack for my day.
posted by gudrun at 1:06 PM on September 12, 2019

Honestly I try to avoid thinking about it as much as possible. I honor the mourning and the sadness of people who lost family, friends, and loved ones in the 9/11 attacks, but I also mourn the death of the society we had before that day.
posted by kirkaracha at 3:47 PM on September 12, 2019

I don't do this every year, but I have watched the excellent short documentary Boatlift many times on or around the anniversary. IT's a view of the events you don't normally see, and it focuses on the "helpers."
posted by Miko at 6:05 PM on September 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

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