Earlier this week, while playing tennis in a public park in Arlington, my opponent and I were pushed off to another court to make way for a flock of elementary-schoolers engaging in a group tennis lesson. It was a predictably cacophonous affair as the middle-aged teachers attempted to place some order on their Nickelodeon charges. One end of our new court abutted the courts with the kids, so when serving I had a direct aural pipeline to their enthusiasm -- not the best of situations for my already tenuous ability to concentrate when serving.
As I was gathering up some balls between our points, I overheard one of the young boys pestering another with a repeated question: "Hey, do you know what 9/11 is?"
And that's how history begins to fade.
I'm not one for the fetishization of mourning that seems to motivate some when it comes to 9/11, particularly the politicians and pundits who've continually used the date as a bludgeon to promote whatever wild-ass policy they happen to be pushing at the time. But I do happen to keep a stack of newspapers and magazines from Sept. 12, 2001, near at hand. I look through them every once in a while -- memory and time by necessity make things more abstract with distance. And, yes, it still hurts like a punch in the gut to re-read and re-live that day, and the days that followed. And that's as it should be.
Someday we'll become our grandparents, telling the stories of our personal 9/11 experiences to those who know it only through textbooks just as they told stories of Pearl Harbor and World War II. I want to make sure I remember it clearly enough to explain.