- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 24, 2005

It’s my first September 11 away from New York City. Washington, D.C. is my new home. Several friends asked me to get together on Sunday, September 11, this year. I told them I wouldn’t be socializing, because I’m a survivor of the September 11, 2001 World Trade Center attacks.

For me, it’s a somber day, a day to remember the most horrible attack made on this country, to honor the dead, and to remind ourselves that we will never forget and never again allow such a senseless attack on U.S. soil. Next time, we will catch the bad guys; we won’t let them into the country; we won’t let them preach hatred and plot terrorist acts.

We have had some policy changes that we can debate on their merits: Should we have privatized airport security, gone to war in Iraq, created the Department of Homeland Security — or not? But, at least we can all agree that we should join in remembering those lost on September 11, 2001. Or can we?

I decided that I would participate in the commemorative events that were certain to be held here and declined the invitation to socialize and party. I didn’t inquire whether such a tribute would take place. Of course it would. This is our nation’s capital. This is where policies on terrorism are made. The entire atmosphere in Washington has changed as a result of September 11, and security procedures have increased. Obviously, we’ll take a day to remember how we got to this point, right?

Wrong. September 11 came and went, and virtually nothing happened in Washington to differentiate it from any other day. People partied, went to ball games and socialized. When questioned, many didn’t even realize what date it was. There was a small event at the Pentagon, displaying the photos of the 174 people who died there. I heard there was some not well-publicized quilt that could be viewed at a university campus in honor of those who died, but, basically no events. Except one — the Freedom Walk. That sounded great: we’ll stand proud, and declare our belief in freedom and democracy; surely those who died on that fateful day would want us to do so. The walk was due to begin at 10 a.m. But because of security reasons and to avoid long lines, people were encouraged to arrive three hours early. Moreover, they wanted us to pick up a ticket — the day before — at another location. Appropriate remembrance started to seem like a burden. Maybe I should just go out and party.

Then I heard rumors that the left thought the Freedom Walk would be a pro-war rally, and they planned anti-war protests. Supposedly in response to the anti-war protests, some of the walkers planned to carry pro-war signs. Someone from the Defense Department assured me it would not be about the war. Just a march to celebrate freedom. Sounded good. — until I looked up the path for the Walk. The march, sponsored by the Pentagon, would stop at all the war memorials along the way. The walk was intended to honor all those who died “for freedom” including all the vets of all the wars and the victims of September 11. What? Don’t we already have a Veterans Day? What does remembering those who died in a terrorist attack have to do with war memorials?

I truly wanted to pay appropriate homage to those who died on September 11. I wanted to reflect upon the events of that day, and hopefully, come just a little closer to healing. I had been homeless for two months; my office displaced for eight months. I had to run for my life, jump on a rescue ferry, stay with strangers, replace all my furniture, and deal with agencies and inspectors from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Having lived and worked in Battery Park, I heard many horror stories from people who had had even narrower escapes, and those who had multiple friends and co-workers who had not escaped at all.

Yet, the day came and went, and it was just another beautiful Sunday in Washington, D.C. How quickly we forget. If we fail to commemorate the events of that day, a mere four years afterwards, what will it mean for future generations?

I think September 11 should be a national holiday, a day of mourning. Political officials should show their respects. We should express empathy for those still trying to accept the unacceptable, a life-altering event for those who were personally affected by losing a loved one, a job or a home. Instead, it was as though it never happened.

I mourned alone. I prayed alone. I wrote in my diary. I called friends in New York City. In New York, there were events all day, a memorial service and speakers. Some people think it appropriate that New York be the place of mourning, because that’s where most lives were lost. But New York wasn’t the target. The United States was the target. Freedom was the target. Our entire way of life was the target. It should not be a local event.

It’s unfortunate the rest of America treated this day as any other. And in our nation’s capital, it’s inexplicable; unforgivable; “disgusting” in the words of one of my New York friends. I agree with her. And next September 11, I will be in New York.

DEBORAH WEISS

Ms. Weiss is an attorney and political consultant in Washington, D.C.


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