No Room

When the planes struck, the call came. Some of our finest responded.
It’s been 10 years. This time, the call isn’t coming.
And that is a shame beyond words.
I’m sure you’ve heard the news by now. You’d almost have to have been a mile beneath Ground Zero to have missed it. On Sept. 11, New York City is holding a ceremony to remember THE Sept. 11. Political leaders will be there. The family of those killed will be there.
The firefighters and other first responders who came to the Towers won’t be. Not enough room.
At the moment, my indignation is mixed with a reluctant nod toward the logistics of the situation. On the day the Towers fell and in the days that followed, for example, there were 91,000 emergency workers on the site from across the country. Never mind the others who could reasonably claim a right to be there, such as the family of those who survived 9/11 – who also haven’t been invited, by the way; they’re on standby in case someone cancels.
If everyone who had been touched by 9/11 came to the ceremony, New York State wouldn’t be big enough to hold them all. Never mind New York City.
But at the same time, it is a shame.
If ever there was a moment when this nation came together, it was Sept. 11, 2011. It was when firefighters and police became national heroes, when politicians could briefly join hands instead of put up fists, when you could look at your neighbor across the street and say the mantra usually reserved for Thanksgiving: “Maybe we don’t agree on everything, but we’re still family.”
To reduce all that to a squabble over who can or can’t be in the crowd on the day seems silly. Even embarrassing.
A compromise, perhaps, could have worked. I think in our hearts, everyone knows everyone can’t go. The space in our hearts for that day is endless; the space on the ground is starkly limited.
But on a day of symbols, why not a few more?
Why not, say, 100 New York first responders from that day? Why not choose two each from every other state across the country, representing all those who lent a hand in a dark hour? Why not do the same with the families of the survivors, and all the others you can think of – a symbolic number to represent the many, many behind them, united with those who had lost so much?
The actual names could have been chosen by lot. There’d still be some grumbling, sure – we didn’t stop being human on 9/11 – but it wouldn’t be the deep resentment of a just honor denied.
Too late now, I know. Maybe something to consider for the 15th or the 20th.
For now, maybe it’s just enough to try to get some of that old spirit back. To recall that wherever we were, the attacks touched us, that wherever we are, we can remember.
Remember those who fell.
Remember those who lived.
Remember that out of many, we are still one.
I hope, in the end, we can all find room for that.