The Dead of September 11
Toni Morrison

Some have God’s words; others have songs of comfort
for the bereaved. If I can pluck courage here, I would
like to speak directly to the dead–the September dead.
Those children of ancestors born in every continent
on the planet: Asia, Europe, Africa, the Americas…;
born of ancestors who wore kilts, obis, saris, geles,
wide straw hats, yarmulkes, goatskin, wooden shoes,
feathers and cloths to cover their hair. But I would not say
a word until I could set aside all I know or believe about
nations, wars, leaders, the governed and ungovernable;
all I suspect about armor and entrails. First I would freshen
my tongue, abandon sentences crafted to know evil—wanton
or studied; explosive or quietly sinister; whether born of
a sated appetite or hunger; of vengeance or the simple
compulsion to stand up before falling down. I would purge
my language of hyperbole; of its eagerness to analyze
the levels of wickedness; ranking them; calculating their
higher or lower status among others of its kind.
Speaking to the broken and the dead is too difficult for
a mouth full of blood. Too holy an act for impure thoughts.
Because the dead are free, absolute; they cannot be
seduced by blitz.
To speak to you, the dead of September 11, I must not claim
false intimacy or summon an overheated heart glazed
just in time for a camera. I must be steady and I must be clear,
knowing all the time that I have nothing to say–no words
stronger than the steel that pressed you into itself; no scripture
older or more elegant than the ancient atoms you
have become.
And I have nothing to give either–except this gesture,
this thread thrown between your humanity and mine:
I want to hold you in my arms and as your soul got shot of its box of flesh to understand, as you
have done, the wit
of eternity: its gift of unhinged release tearing through
the darkness of its knell.

What words can be said that have not already been uttered? How does one comprehend the incompressible; the tragic, sudden loss of life, the sense of security forever marred?

Today we remember the mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, grandmothers, grandfathers, sisters, brothers, wives, husbands, daughters, sons, friends…fellow human beings…lost to us that day.

Despite the countless tragedies that day, and the many in the days since, we must all never stop striving to live by the sentiment uttered so prophetically by Martin Luther King Jr.: “hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Remembrances on the Journal:


Peacebuilders Pledge in Action

New York: 9/11 (Remembering)


6 comments on “REMEMBERING

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  1. Vickie

    I had to share this, along with yesterday’s “Dear Jeff,” as they moved me so profoundly. Thank you for going beyond the memes and the gifs – for looking to art as a way to remember. I will never forget September 11, 2001.