Grief is hard, 
but with time it eases.
We do not forget,
but the pain is pushed
into the corner like dust 
we missed when we
last swept the room.
We know it's there,
but pretend we don't see it;
ignoring it is easier
than dealing with it.

Except on anniversaries.
We measure our loss,
in the beginning, by firsts--
the first holidays after,
the first birthdays,
the first week, the first month
the first year.
We get on with life
and mostly don't look in the corners
with their fresh reminders
of what we've lost 
and all the things that have been missed,
until the next year starts anew
and we count.

Back in March I marked 21 years
since my mother passed.
Today, marks 21 years 
since I was at work and heard the radio announce
a plane crashed into the World Trade Center.
At first we all thought it was a fluke,
that a random plane had somehow 
come into air space it shouldn't. 
But when another crashed not long after, 
and still another at the Pentagon,
we all knew we'd been attacked.

The aftermath was burned into our memories
with media coverage of tragedy like none
we'd ever witnessed.
The pillars of smoke climbing to the sky,
people jumping from windows,
others wandering the streets covered in ash.
Everyone wondering if the people they knew
were safe or incinerated in the blaze.
Shell-shocked, even at a safe distance,
we mourned and pulled together.
Everyone searching, donating, consoling,
doing anything we could to ease the suffering
in a world that had changed forever.
The day after those planes destroyed the Towers,
the world became one in a way we hadn't seen before—
we were We The People.
Sadly, we have not seen that kind of unity since.

We created memorials and a holiday to remember;
on Patriot's Day we gather round to stand in respectful silence
while the names of the lost are read aloud
by those who have a more intimate relationship to them than we do.
Some of us weep as the scab is torn 
from old wounds we thought healed long ago,
but the truth is when this 21st anniversary is over,
unless we lost someone we loved on that fateful day,
we will sweep dust back into the corner
and go on with our lives. 

That is the way of grief.
We cannot hold onto the grief of the world
and our sanity at the same time.
So we mark the day to show respect and sympathy,
then move on, remembering the more intimate markers along the way.
21 years ago my 81 year old father had his first visit back to New York
since my mother passed canceled because 
all air traffic had been suspended.
A few weeks later it was rescheduled
and we rejoiced to see each other after so much loss.
My father told me everyone applauded 
when the plane touched down safely.
He said, “I'm not going to lie, I was a little scared
of getting on that plane. 
But I had to do it. If I didn't,
then the terrorists win,
and I fought too hard to let that happen.”

I remember that like it was yesterday.
We cannot let ourselves forget.

~Elise Skidmore ©2022

9/11 Memorial in NYC

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