Try To Remember The Kind Of September…

American flag flying in downtown Asheville
American flag flying in downtown Asheville (2011)

Everyone who was alive on September 11, 2001 was *somewhere* on that day, and most of us probably remember exactly where we were when we first saw or heard the news.

The sky was perfectly blue overhead here in Western North Carolina, with a few puffy clouds that were just there for show, not rain. I walked to my building from the parking lot down the street, admiring such a stunning backdrop for the few buildings in Asheville that are tall enough to stand out against the sky. I was really thinking of myself, though–we had our annual company dinner that night, and I was responsible for creating and assisting with all the presentations. I’d only been with the company a little over a month, and I was worrying about everything going smoothly. I was at my desk by 8:30 a.m., ready to begin going over all the details for the millionth time.

How quickly my personal worries changed, swept up into a national tide of disbelief, anger, fear, and panic that was far greater than I could ever have imagined as I walked to work. And how quickly the nation changed, too, into a “before and after” mode that will always divide those of us who remember when things were different from those who have never known it any other way.

Our company event was canceled, of course; no one wanted to celebrate our accomplishments on such a day–we just wanted to go home and be with the people who meant the most to us. Nothing else seemed to matter as much as that.

Ten years later, and it’s another gorgeous September day–maybe even a bit warmer than 2001–with the same color of sky that I can only describe as ‘early fall blue,’ and a few cottony white clouds for contrast.

Here’s a list of five things that I wish were different:

  1. I wish flying was as wonderful and easy as it used to be–no removing shoes, full body scans, luggage inspections, and the ability to pack whatever liquids you find convenient in your carry-on bag (like your own bottled water).
  2. I wish high-profile places were still icons rather than targets.
  3. I wish I didn’t feel compelled to watch the behavior of others–especially in crowds–for suspicious activity. (To be honest, I’ve always ‘kept an eye’ on people in crowds, but 9/11/01 has made me extra vigilant.)
  4. I wish the damage of the actual attacks could have ended with the attacks rather than affecting transportation, security, and–ultimately–the economy.
  5. I wish everyone could have received the same good news I did on that day–that the people I knew who worked in and around the World Trade Center were all safe at home.

I don’t know what you wish were different, but it’s hard not to long for that earlier time when we took our safety and our way of life for granted. I’ve always liked the song Try To Remember from the 1960 musical The Fantasticks, but the meaning of it has shifted a bit–from the remembrance of youthful love to the remembrance of the time before September 11, 2001. Watch veteran singer/dancer/actor Jerry Orbach–a quintessential New Yorker–bring it home here (lyrics below).

Try To Remember

Try to remember the kind of September
When life was slow and oh, so mellow.
Try to remember the kind of September
When grass was green and grain was yellow.
Try to remember the kind of September
When you were a tender and callow fellow.
Try to remember, and if you remember,
Then follow.

Follow, follow, follow, follow, follow,
Follow, follow, follow, follow.

Try to remember when life was so tender
That no one wept except the willow.
Try to remember when life was so tender
That dreams were kept beside your pillow.
Try to remember when life was so tender
That love was an ember about to billow.
Try to remember, and if you remember,
Then follow.

Follow, follow, follow, follow, follow,
Follow, follow, follow, follow.

Follow, follow, follow, follow, follow,
Follow, follow, follow, follow.

Follow, follow, follow, follow, follow,
Follow, follow, follow, follow.

Deep in December, it’s nice to remember,
Although you know the snow will follow.
Deep in December, it’s nice to remember,
Without a hurt the heart is hollow.
Deep in December, it’s nice to remember,
The fire of September that made us mellow.
Deep in December, our hearts should remember
And follow.

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