World Trade Center     
Never Forget Five Years Later...

It almost seems as if Mother Nature herself conspires to keep the memories alive... It is to be yet another a brilliant, crisp, blue-skied September day here today... just as it was five years ago...

Five years already...

September 11, 2001...

It does not seem possible that five years have passed. Surely it was just yesterday. The sights and sounds, the feel and even the smells of that terrible time are seared so strongly into my heart that they haven't faded, even a little, in five years.

There are things I will simply never forget. The fear in my little brother's voice when he reached me by phone, demanding to know that I had not gone into the city that day. The pain in my little sister's voice when she reached me by phone, and we tried to comfort each other. Falling asleep at last in my home, and waking, terrified, to the smell of smoke... smoke from the burning rubble 10 miles from my home. The tears that still fall, uncontrollably, any time I hear the skirl of bagpipes playing "Amazing Grace." The terrible terrible sense of loss and hurt and grief and anger. Oh my Lord... the anger.

It does not help that terrible burning anger to know that here we are, another year later, and just last week the news was filled with yet another tape from Osama bin Laden. Just the sight of that man still makes me rage. How can it be -- how is it possible that those responsible are still out there? I want to repeat word for word what I said last year and the year before: "It is simply inconceivable to me that, with all the vast resources of this country, Osama bin Laden is still out there. I was trained as a lawyer and as a prosecutor. I believe in justice and I believe deeply in the rule of law. And I want those who committed these acts brought to account for what they did."

I won't dismiss the possibility that this terrible anger is my way of coping with what is such a terrible hurt. I won't even try to deny it -- it hurts so badly to look back at what I have written in past years and to be forced to admit that so much of it remains true today: "Many of us, especially those of us in the New York area, remain deeply affected by the events of 9/11. We sleep more fitfully. We startle more easily. We look up when we hear a plane in the sky. We wince at the sight of a low flying jet. We turn for comfort to things we hope will make us feel better -- to comfort foods, sometimes even to alcohol or to drugs. It doesn't take much to bring us to tears. We have been deeply injured. We have not yet healed. I wonder if we ever really will. If it's even possible."

Some of us here, and in Washington D.C., and in the cities around the country where those hijacked jets were coming from or going to... we lost family that September day. Some of us lost friends. Some lost acquaintances. Some lost neighbors. And we are now seeing the consequences to the first-responders who gave so unstintingly of their time and their efforts in the hours and days and weeks after the attacks, working in the rubble at Ground Zero. They are suffering. They are ill. They are even dying. Police officers. Firefighters. EMS workers. Steelworkers and laborers. The estimates are that seventy percent of those who worked at Ground Zero are ill. It boggles the mind. The losses just go on and on.

And all of us -- every single person in the country -- we all lost something else on September 11th. We lost an innocence and a joy in living. We have paid a terrible price for what madmen chose to do to us. Not just the horrific loss of life. But the loss of a way of life too. We can't take a cup of coffee through security at the airport. Trucks still can't use the lower level of the George Washington Bridge. The flashing signs on the roadways remind us to be vigilant. And the posters around town tell us if we see something, say something.

As a Body Politic, the price has been so very high. We have waged war in Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden found refuge, but his collaborators -- the Taliban -- have not been defeated. I have to wonder if they could have been defeated -- and if Osama bin Laden could have been captured (or killed, I don't care much which) -- if we had used all of our manpower and our resources there, rather than in a country where only the self-deluded think there was any link at all to 9/11. And we are hurting ourselves so badly in the process of "fighting terrorism." Our country engages in torture and calls it "alternative interrogation." We wiretap our own citizens without court approval. We hide prisoners in secret prisons and then want to try them in secret courts while keeping the evidence against them secret from them. We narrow the gap between Them and Us.

The anger at what the terrorists did to this country and what we are doing to ourselves is simply overwhelming.

But I will, as I must, put that aside this September 11th. I have a job to do, one I swore I would do as the sun set that Tuesday five years ago. It is time to open the film cannister into which I brushed some of the dust of Ground Zero, to touch it with my own hands, and -- once again -- to stand witness. To make sure that I do not forget. That we do not forget. That no-one forgets. That nearly 3,000 lives will never be forgotten.

To say, one more time, this year and every year, as long as I have life and breath, in words and images, NEVER FORGET.

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