I remember the morning of September 11, 2001, very clearly. I’ve blogged in the past about how that day started for me, how I first learned about what was happening in New York City and seeing the rest unfold on live television.
A lot has happened since that day. And by that, I mean that a lot has happened in my life. I’ve relocated, gotten a better job, lost one pet, acquired two more, started blogging, had two surgeries, been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder…and the list goes on and on.
Life has, despite that awful day, gone on.
That’s good for those of us who were fortunate enough not to be located at one of the targets of the attacks. But it should also give us pause.
Are we so insignificant that when we pass on, the world will continue on without us? When each one of us, in our own way so self-absorbed, is gone, what happens next?
The religious among us (myself included) are quick to think of Heaven or some kind of Afterlife that we know we will experience. And that’s fine, but I’m not talking about that.
I’m talking about this world. It’ll go on without us. In some ways, it’ll be as if we never existed.
There’s a wonderful scene in the Alfred Hitchcock film, Vertigo in which Kim Novak’s character, Madeline, is looking at a cross-section of a long-lived Redwood tree. Madeline believes she is really a woman who lived and died generations earlier. She points at the rings in the tree stump as the camera pans across markers denoting major historical events like the signing of the Magna Carta or Columbus’s discovery of “America.”
“Somewhere in here I was born,” she says, then continues moving her finger outward of the central rings. “And there I died.” Realizing the tree’s longevity, she adds, “It was only a moment for you. You took no notice.”
That haunting piece of dialog sums up her character’s life, and the lives of all of the rest of us, too. That clip of film still gives me chills.
There are billions of other people on this planet, and therefore billions that we’ll never meet. For the most part, they’ll not only take no notice of us, but they’ll never care to ponder that we ever were here to begin with. Does that bother you?
Some of us won’t be forgotten anytime soon, but I’m speaking of the Einsteins and Newtons of our own generation. There are surely some people of our age who will transcend multiple generations, even centuries. But even if we’re close to them, that won’t guarantee our longevity, will it?
No matter how long we live, there’s the undeniable truth that it’s never long enough, whether you’re killed in a childhood accident or you make your way into the record books by celebrating your 120th birthday.
The 2,996 people who died five years ago tomorrow might well have been 2,996 people we’d never have heard of had it not been for this one moment in our shared history. The 2,996 Project I’m taking part in tomorrow is aimed at forcing us to pull our heads out of the sand and look beyond our own circle, even if only long enough to read a few blog posts. It’s not about politics, it’s not about war, or blame, or finger-pointing.
It’s about people. People just like us. People who might have been too easily forgotten.
I hope you’ll be back tomorrow to read about Joshua.