Last year, on September 12, 2012, the day after the eleven-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I read an article in the New York Times. I found one snippet of the article to be profoundly disturbing. Like many 9/11 anniversaries, there was a rally at Ground Zero on this day last year. Someone was speaking to the assembled crowd and the line that received the loudest applause was not, “We will never forget,” but “We will never forgive.”
I understand if someone who lost a loved one on 9/11 has not forgiven those who are responsible, but I don’t think “We will never forgive” should be our rallying cry on this day or any other. If we rally around a statement like that it puts us in a reactive state of mind, the one everyone was in the morning the towers fell.
I have searched for and have failed to find a video I remember watching on this day twelve years ago. The video was of a man, one of the thousands walking out of Manhattan on the Brooklyn Bridge that day. He saw that a news camera was filming the scene and he took a moment to yell into the camera. His voice was understandably filled with rage and he said, “You see this, you see this?” as he pointed toward downtown, “Whoever you are, wherever you are, we are coming for you. We are coming for you!” It was a moment of raw emotion that we all felt that day. It was healthy to have that feeling, to express it, but not healthy to hold on to it.
During the interregnum, between that crisp, fall morning and this morning twelve years later, the US’ ventures in the Middle East have often been misguided by the “We will never forgive” attitude, an attitude that helped fuel erroneous claims that Saddam Hussein was connected to 9/11 and that he was intent on using WMDs or getting them into the hands of terrorists. It is an attitude that has fueled the rise of Islamophobia in the US. It is a “shoot first—think later” state of mind that some still cling to and that others are slowly beginning to shed as the country learns how to walk that fine line between Never Forgetting and Moving On. Do both today.