About this anniversary, others have said and will say words more fitting than any which I might offer. Even so, I would like to add two or three small thoughts. For years I have had a burr under my saddle, a pebble in my shoe, and today is a good day to shake it out. Ever since the morning of that neverending day when I first heard the unbelievable and saw the astonishing and read stories of the heartwrenching and horrible, I have steadfastly refused to follow the crowd in styling those events as “9/11”. “9/11” is a clipped convenience, a notation, a shorthand suited to our nation’s shortening attention span. That day ten years ago demanded our full horrified attention, and still defies our understanding. In spoken and written word, let us refer to “September 11, 2001”, just as we remember that earlier day of infamy, December 7, 1941. Does anyone say “12/7”?
This anniversary also brings to mind this story, which you might have heard but it is worth repeating. Perhaps you know that the original lyrics to “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” were considerably different (and darker) than the version we grew up with. You might also remember that shortly after September 11, 2001, James Taylor released his recording of the original lyrics. Back then, Taylor’s recording fit our mood exactly; and on this tenth anniversary those lyrics, first written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blaine, are worth reading again.
A final note: A few years ago, on a flight to New York City, my seatmate was an investment advisor whose office was in midtown Manhattan. He was in his office on September 11, 2001. He told me what he saw that day and the next day. As you might imagine, his account included several vivid scenes, including this one which I am giving in Patrick’s words: “The next day I walked out of my office and was walking along the sidewalk when I heard a strange sound. Something was buzzing. I wondered what it was. Then I realized that it was the sound of air-conditioners. The day after the attacks, the city was so quiet that the sound of air-conditioners on the tops of buildings floated down to the street.”
You might remember that for a few stunned days, ten years ago, we were muted in our speech and more considerate in our manner. For a short while, at least, we remembered to be courteous. And quiet.
Have yourself a merry little Christmas, it may be your last,
Next year we may all be living in the past
Have yourself a merry little Christmas, pop that champagne cork,
Next year we will all be living in New York.
No good times like the olden days, happy golden days of yore,
Faithful friends who were dear to us, will be near to us no more.
But at least we all will be together, if the Fates allow,
From now on we’ll have to muddle through somehow.
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.
(Original lyrics by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blaine)