Sunday, September 11, 2005


September has always been the month of new beginnings for me. Fall, not spring, is the time of year I feel I'm getting a fresh start. Part of that is the back-to-school feeling, and since I moved 6 times from K-12, in my childhood it often was a completely new experience - new school, new teachers, new clothes, new friends (if I were lucky.)

But it's also because my birthday is in September, so it's the literal new year for me: a step up from 12 to 13, from 20 to 21, from 39 to 40. I like having my birthday now, because it feels the right time of year to celebrate.

Four years ago, nobody was in the mood to celebrate, least of all me. My birthday fell on the Friday after 9/11, and my brother suggested we go out to dinner, because, well, restaurants were open and why not? We had to have some kind of semblance of living again. That was the day we'd finally been able to tear ourselves away from the television and radio, and so while we knew the day had been declared a national day of mourning, we hadn't remembered that people were being invited to step out onto the street at dusk with a candle for a moment of silence. We drove to a restaurant in Williamsburg (because leaving our neighborhood was another way of reclaiming our freedom) and as we wound our way across the borough, started to pass people carrying candles. Because it was unexpected, it was eerie - but also strangely calming. And allowed for a stress-relieving moment of humor - all of this just for me? Do I have to blow all of the candles out?

I had a hard time when people began referring to the tragedy as "September 11th." Your birthday is one of the phrases you say most often in your life, after your name or where you live or what you do. "September 14th" meant something to me, something very special. It was part of my identity. I can't describe why, but I had an almost physical reaction to hearing the similar phrase used to signify something so horrible. That sounds incredibly selfish, doesn't it? But it's more symbolic of how much the events affected me, and how I was unable to keep them from contaminating me. I imagine it's what it must be like to be named Katrina right now.

Today was several new beginnings at our church, as it was both the first day for the interim minister, and the first day back in the large sanctuary after the smaller more casual summer services in the chapel. The new minister had wanted to introduce to us a new tradition, a water ritual, in which each person brought water from somewhere they'd been over the summer, water that held meaning for them. We were first told about it in June (in preparation for those summer beach trips) and so it was planned quite a while ago. Now I'm not sure if this is part of the tradition, (although the order of service gave credit to another UU minister for adapting the story) but the story that was told during the service was that of Piglet stuck in a flood. So what was to be a ceremony of renewal suddenly became so much more relevant, in a way nobody could have imagined or predicted or feared.

These pictures are not from a 9/11 memorial, but from a peace rally in a nearby park before the war.

I'm glad that today fell on a Sunday, that I was able to have that experience. It feels wrong for September 11 to pass without something significant. It feels weird to look down at the date stamp at the bottom of this screen and let it be just a date, like it used to be.


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