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Has Enough Time Passed To Start Forgetting 9/11?

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The past is not dead. It’s not even past.
-William Faulkner

Has enough time passed to start forgetting 9/11? This is a disturbing question for those family members, coworkers, and friends who lost someone on September 11, 2001 in the terrorist attacks. Still, in a most despicably callous way, it continues to be asked by some people who want to “move on.”

Perhaps their motives are not as cruel as they seem, but they should understand that moving on is just not possible for some. People who disrespectfully tell us to “move on” have little or no concept of the nature of each person’s individual type of mourning, and those whom the victims (of the worst attack on our homeland in United States history) left behind surely deserve something better than this.

This year the ceremony here in New York City has been “scaled back” considerably. New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his administration have seen fit not to hold the Commemoration Ceremony at Ground Zero (the former site of The World Trade Center destroyed in the attacks) but at nearby Zuccotti Park (on Liberty Street between Broadway and Church Street). Yes, the names of the victims will be read as in the past, but it seems extraordinarily cold-hearted to move the ceremony away from the scene of the attacks.

The reason for this situation is all the activity happening at Ground Zero. If someone has never visited the city since the attacks, he or she would be amazed by the sounds and sights to be encountered there now. The pit or hole that once seemed a wasteland after the attacks has been transformed by workers, machinery, and the building materials necessary to create and recreate the space.

While this is commendable and truly in keeping with a desire to show the world that nothing keeps New Yorkers down, it seems more than ridiculous that all this activity cannot be stopped for one day to mark the sanctity of the ground where so many people died.

The question all along has been why Bloomberg and company want to prevent the ceremony from happening at Ground Zero. Does the debate center on the safety of those participating in the ceremony who could be perceived to be in danger from the construction process happening at the site? If that is the case, I can understand Bloomberg’s thinking, but it is difficult to believe that one area on the 16-acre site could not be secured for the purpose of marking this anniversary, especially with the day falling ominously on a Tuesday as it did the day the attacks took place.

The more disturbing question is this: Does the moving of the ceremony represent a desire by politicians, business leaders, and some members of the media to start putting thoughts of 9/11 in the dustbin? I know for a fact that some people are annoyed that the powerful emotions and feelings about 9/11 continue to resonate even six years after the attacks. I have heard (and other people I know have heard it, too) someone say, “Come on, isn’t it time for you to get over it and move on?”

Perhaps, since they have no personal connection to the victims, they believe mourning and remembering are not good for the city, the economy, and tourism. I feel sorry for them for their lack of understanding and respect for those lost. I can only refer those who do not understand the desire to mark the day with remembrances to the quotation from William Faulkner listed above.

I hope they will start to understand that time does not heal all wounds, but apparently it magnifies the worst in some who have selfish motives. You want us to forget 9/11? Well, you will have to wait until all of us who lost someone that day are laid to rest ourselves, for September 11, 2001, is as vividly etched in our minds today as it was the day we experienced its horror.

Of course, some pundits will point to the past and ask what is remembered about other atrocities similar to 9/11. For example, the cry “Remember the Maine!” once rocked our nation from isolationist slumber into war with Spain. The Maine was a Navy ship docked in Havana harbor that was sunk by a bomb (reminiscent in some ways of the U.S.S. Cole many years later). 262 sailors died that 15th day of February in 1898, and for many years “Remember the Maine” was a phrase used to commemorate their loss. These days very few people even remember the incident, and all those family members of the victims are now long gone themselves.

Perhaps the most obvious comparison to 9/11 is the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Many movies have been made about what President Franklin D. Roosevelt called “a day of infamy,” and anyone who has ever visited Hawaii probably has stopped at the lovely memorial that glistens in the sunshine over the remains of the U.S.S. Arizona. The memorial is a tangible attempt to galvanize memory and remind those born after the attacks about those lost. Sadly, there are fewer and fewer people remaining each day who can actually recall where they were the day the Japanese attacked our ships on a tranquil Sunday morning in December 1941.

Another example of the importance of remembrance is the Holocaust that devastated Europe under the Nazis. Museums have been built, the former concentration camps have been turned into powerful exhibits of an evil so horrific it defies understanding, and many books and movies have been made to chronicle this tragic aspect of the Nazis’ time in power. Still, many of those people who were eyewitnesses are gone, and the often-heard line “Never forget” is spoken and heard less as the years pass.

It is essential that the citizens of this and all nations be reminded of such monumental incidents in human history. Yes, a memorial will one day be in place at Ground Zero, and that realization of suffering and loss in concrete and steel will remain long after those who lost friends and loved ones are gone. This is somewhat comforting to know, but it does not negate the suffering and duress still felt by those who lost loved ones.

Those people want and need a place to go to mark the anniversary, to stand in the space where their loved ones took their last breaths, to mingle with one another and remind the world that what happened on 9/11 is not forgotten (and should never be forgotten). This is not the dead past; this is a living and unrelenting horror that affected (and continues to affect) the lives of those left behind.

Friends and family of the victims try to move forward each day, but the calendar always manages to come around to that month and day again. What was a seemingly regular Tuesday in September changed their lives, their country, and their world forever. It is not time to forget nor will it ever be time to forget. Remembering 9/11 in the most respectful, meaningful, and public ceremony every year is the single best way we can show the world that we will not only remember, but we will also do everything in our power to make certain nothing like 9/11 ever happens again anywhere in the United States.

We might not be able to have the ceremony at Ground Zero this year, but one day in the near future the Freedom Tower will soar into the sky, and the 9/11 Memorial will mark the footprints of the World Trade Center towers. When that day comes it will be essential that the Commemoration Ceremony takes place there every year forevermore. In this way the past will not be dead or even past, but alive in the memory of Americans and citizens of the world until the end of time.

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About Victor Lana

Victor Lana has published numerous stories, articles, and poems in literary magazines and online. His books In a Dark Time (1994), A Death in Prague (2002), Move (2003), The Savage Quiet September Sun: A Collection of 9/11 Stories (2005) and Like a Passing Shadow (2009) are available online and as e-books. He has won the National Arts Club Award for Poetry, but has concentrated mostly on fiction and non-fiction prose in recent years. He has worked as faculty advisor to school literary magazines and enjoys the creative process as a writer, editor, and collaborator. He has been with Blogcritics since July 2005, has edited many articles, was co-head sports editor with Charley Doherty, and now is a Culture and Society editor. He views Blogcritics as one of most exciting, fresh, and meaningful opportunities in his writing life.
  • http://musical-guru.blogspot.com/ Michael J. West

    I don’t think we should “forget” or “move on” from 9/11…although I do wonder why it gets “the most respectful, meaningful, and public ceremony every year” for six years now, but the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina – by far a larger, more deadly, more damaging, and more expensive catastrophe – barely sort of semi-registers on the American consciousness a mere two years after the event.

  • Alessandro

    MJW, true – but 9/11 was an act of terror and not a freak of nature. Dealing with nature is “easier” (or at the least simpler to comprehend) than facing the depraved senselessness of murderers.

    Victor, don’t mean to nitpick but we could also recall the 260 (?) marines killed in Lebanon in the early eighties (1983 was it?)

    Great piece. I simply love New York City. Was just there in March to attend my cousin’s wedding in Brooklyn – he was in Building Seven on 9/11. My wife and I happened to be flicking channels last night and happened upon the horrific images of that day. We were numb – six years later…and all the way up here in Montreal.

  • Victor Lana

    I wrote an article about Katrina awhile back here on BC. It affected me too as it has many others. I am just focused on 9/11 right now (and also because it affected my family). All disasters (whether man-made or natural) are so large in scope that they demand recognition as do their victims and survivors.

  • STM

    Why would anyone in America even want to start forgetting 9/11?? It’s too bizarre a notion to accept that anyone would even contemplate such a thing …

    Next time someone tells you the war on terror isn’t real (as opposed to the baloney war in Iraq, which really has nothing to do with it), take another look at the tapes of jets flying into skyscrapers and remember how you felt that day.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    There is a big difference between forgetting and moving on.

    But in either event, the problem that this event put on the map for Americans so that it finally now registers in their thick self-absorbed heads – Wahhabi terror spread through the Saudi-funded madrassas throughout the world – has scarcely been dealt with.

    There is no reason to either move on or forget. And anybody who thinks the contrary is a fool who needs to be punished with more deaths from Wahhabi terror to learn.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Stan,

    The war on terror is not real.

    “Next time someone tells you the war on terror isn’t real (as opposed to the baloney war in Iraq, which really has nothing to do with it), take another look at the tapes of jets flying into skyscrapers and remember how you felt that day.”

    The “war on terror” is all bullshit. The terror war on us is, by contrast, is very real. And, like you, I’ve seen far more than merely the big Arab ceegar sticking out of the doomed World Trade Center. Seeing that on CNN in a pizza parlor in Jerusalem was my 50th birthday “present.”

    When the Americans nuke Riyadh and Teheran, then I’ll know that the war on terror is real. Till then, the US government is just blowing smoke up everybody’s ass…

  • http://www.robot-of-the-week.com Christopher Rose

    I’ve always thought this “blowing smoke up your ass” remark to be odd. Has anyone ever had it done to them? What does it feel like? What kind of smoke? It seems a somewhat strange and probably unpleasant experience to my way of thinking but the way it is used seems to imply a sedative.

    Inquiring minds want to know…

  • http://blogcritics.org/archives/2007/09/10/113622.php Victor Lana

    While some of these comments are very “colorful” to say the least, I think we’re getting away from the issue here. 2,973 Americans died on 9/11/2001, and this is something that should always be marked as a solemn anniversary.

  • bliffle

    Maudlin.

  • Nancy

    Sorry, but while I do sympathize with the survivors & those who lost loved ones, they can’t expect the universe to go on mourning & memorializing with them forever. If I died today, my friends would weep for a few days, but then I hope they’d go on. Remember me, yes, but stop everything to hold a big memorial shebang? No.

    IMO this business of making a national day of grief out of every situation is getting on the overkill side. Major memorials for the victims of 9/11, Va Tech, this tragedy, that tragedy …. Come on, people; so many things happen all over the place, so often, to so many, we’re going to be spending all our time memorializing “victims” of so-called “tragedies”.

    We shouldn’t forget 9/11, those who died, or more importantly, those who planned & perpetuated this. So why is the ringleader still with us after all this time, billions of dollars, & 5,000+ US lives wasted in Afghanistan & Iraq)? It seems to me the most fitting memorial to the 9/11 people, victims & survivors both, would be for BushCo to honor their pledge to capture or kill this bastard, instead of pursuing bogus wars in order to control oil – or bring “freedom” & “democracy” to people who don’t want it & can’t handle it. Now THAT would be a memorial worth observing.

    In any event, despite Ruvy’s opinion, I think it is time to move on, & stop memorializing & expecting the world to stop every time something happens.

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com Andy Marsh

    If you haven’t stood at the bottom and looked up and rode the elevator to the top and looked out, you can’t comprehend. If you haven’t stood outside at 8 in the morning and seen the masses of people that headed into those buildings…if you didn’t have friends in those buildings, you can’t comprehend the loss that some people feel.

    Great article Victor. Thank you.

  • Catey

    something touched me deep inside, the day the music died… “American Pie”

  • daryl d

    More of a tragedy is the fact that our administration used the death of these people to wage an unjust war and mame innocent Iraquis and convince people that the people in Iraq that are fighting against the USA invasion should somehow be called “insurgents.”

    People die everyday and it’s a sad thing. But constantly having a memorial for the 911 victims reeks of propaganda from our government.

  • Catey

    If you wish to think of Iraq and George Bush and Republicans every time 9/11 comes around, thats your choice. I see and remember an event that happened all in and of itself.

  • http://culturesalad.blogspot.com Ray Ellis

    #13.I won’t even bother quoting you. But I will tell you that remembering the victims of 9/11 has NOTHING to do with politics. This is not the forum for another of your self-made controversies.

  • daryl d

    Yes, but it’s hard NOT to forget that the tragic loss of these people was used to take away more tragic lives.

    It’s really hard to see if these “911 Victim” Tributes are really sincere or not.

    For the people who lost family members that day, the tributes are obviously sincere. But to hear George W. Bush and Rudi Guilliani, the so-called “911 Hero,” Ugggggg…..

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    My point, dear Nancy, is less related to whether one should move on from a tragedy, than to whether, if that tragedy presents a real problem, CAN one realistically “move on” if the problem is still in the in-box.

    Given that the problem in most assuredly yet in the in-box, and yet undealt with in any realistic way, one CANNOT move on.

    Individuals, of course, do move on in their own lives; they have to. A widow cannot be expected to wear black forever.

    But in this instance, the event that caused the widowhood remains undealt with, and the individuals who are truly responsible for the widowhood are yet not only at large, but enjoying the good life, often with the help of the United States government.

    One can argue one way or another if the American government was involved somehow in the bringing down of the Twin Towers six years ago today. But one cannot argue that the United States government has truly attempted to stem Wahhabi terror on her soil, or anywhere else in the world.

    IT HAS NOT.

    For this reason, there is yet a gaping, raw wound in America that must be healed with action to bring the criminals to justice. Until this does occur, America will be unable to move on.

  • Victor Lana

    The “real” 9/11 heroes were those firefighters, police officers, EMTs, and others who went in those burning buildings while everyone was running out. These are the 9/11 heroes. All those who died in the towers, in DC, and in PA are the innocent victims of madmen, of an evil as incomprehensible as the Holocaust.

    Today we honor these people. Discussions about anything else seem disrespectful to say the least. “War on terror” and other topics should be left to other forums. This space is about honoring those who died. Please understand that.

  • http://culturesalad.blogspot.com Ray Ellis

    Thank you, Victor.

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com Andy Marsh

    Yeah! What Victor said!

  • Nancy

    I can’t even comprehend at this time how the guys in NYC had the courage to go in – & die – in a situation that they (I’m quite sure, I’ve discussed this with other volunteers, including some of our guys who went up there afterwards to help search for bodies) KNEW was probably going to be dangerous for them at best, & most likely terminal. I can’t fathom that they went in anyway. I gotta admit, had I been a NY fire/rescue volunteer, I wouldn’t – couldn’t – have made myself go in. So they’re a helluva lot better than I ever will be. Course, with my leg as it is now, that’s not a question anymore.

    Ruvy, the problem will NEVER be addressed, because those that the very peak of power in US government are those who are most hand-in-glove with those who fostered & subsidized the attackers, as are far too many in congress. We can’t even get congress to impeach Bush & Cheney, much less accuse them of complicity with the Saudis, so it will remain an open wound forever, IMO, as long as there’s money to be made by the very rich families who control politics here in the US & don’t care that 3000+ people died because of their greed, not counting the 3500+ soldiers in Iraq to date.

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com Andy Marsh

    Nancy – Honestly, talking to firemen from up there, NY and Newark across the river, I don’t believe they thought the buildings were gonna come down. They had tried to bring them down before without success.

    I bet that most people up there thought like I did, that the towers were indestructable! I had been taught years earlier that they were designed to take the impact of a commercial jet airliner…

  • Nancy

    I dunno…some of our guys went up there, as I said, & spent a good deal of time talking to the NY people. At the time a lot of these firefighters etc. went in, the buildings were already unstable in the extreme, altho they weren’t already collapsing…but the fire/smoke situation was such that death was a heavy constant regardless, even w/PBI gear & SCBA units. And they went in anyway.

    Don’t get me wrong: just seeing photos of any of that day reduces me to tears of horror & rage, but I do think that we’ve got to stop building things into national days of mourning every time something happens, and/or relatives demand recognition (& increasingly, remuneration!) for their losses. We ALL lose loved ones, some more tragically than others, but that doesn’t mean the whole world has to stop & mourn with us, or worse, perpetuate it.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    “Discussions about anything else seem disrespectful to say the least.”

    I feel sure that there were plenty among those killed on 9/11 who would disagree with this self-righteous piety, and certainly a number of people among the grieving families too.

    Especially on a web site like this one, telling people how to react and what to say is offensive.

    It’s impossible for many of us to think about this day and not consider the even worse tragedies that have followed – many as a result of misguided idealism, or worse, the cynical use of grief and anger to promote immoral policies.

    And when we do air these genuine feelings, this is true respect, not disrespect.

  • Victor Lana

    Handy, I’m not telling anyone how to react. That’s up to them, but I think that to spoil for a fight here is wrong and mean-spirited. This is about honoring the lost, not debating other items. That is what I meant.

    Please feel free to spew all the hatred you want here, but I’m skipping over it.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    I did not and do not ‘spew hatred,’ here or elsewhere. (Although in your own way, you just did.)

    I do think there are ways of ‘honoring the dead’ that do not involve mouthing Hallmark-style cliches. And those other ways are equally valid and equally respectful.

  • daryl d

    handguy, you get the award for post of the day. Thank you and there are many who agree with us.

  • Victor Lana

    Andy, I think you’re right for the most part. Those guys went in thinking it was like 1993. So were the people who were trapped inside and waving white cloths out the window (just like in 1993). By the time they knew it was going to come down it was too late, and the walkie-talkies weren’t working either.

    All I know is the New York’s Bravest earned their title that day.

  • bliffle

    Since the sterling BC political staff has apparently imposed a blackout on discussions of the Petraeus/Crocker head-to-head, blowhard-to-blowhard, session in congress, let me summarize:

    MORE TUNNEL, NO LIGHT.

    There, paste that in your neocon show.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    Biffle, if there was a blackout, then how did your comment get through? I can publish your article on the subject if you let me know the title.

  • Victor Lana

    If anyone reading this actually watched the ceremony today, I would hope that affected him or her in some meaningful way.

    I wish the mayors and politicans would be somewhere else. This has nothing to do with politics (yes it does unfortunately but it should not) and everything to do with those who died and those who remain and mourn.

    It is less a “Hallmark” moment and more a moment to be marked as hallowed.

  • klondikekitty

    The events of 9/11 were by far some of the most senseless,horrific and unbelievable acts of complete terroristic violence I have ever witnessed in my life. The fact that the current Bush Administration has used those events to advance its own agenda of death in Iraq only adds to the unspeakable cruelty by those who perpetrated the deaths of so many innocent Americans on that day.
    Although I live in the Midwest and have no relatives or even friends who were killed on 9/11, my heart goes out to the familes of those who died, who can NEVER forget — May God grant you His endless comfort and love to carry you through each anniversary of 9/11, as you struggle with the rest of us to understand how such hatred could be aimed at so many who had little or nothing to do with the foreign policies that fed and nurtured that hatred into attacking America. I pray that the same God who comforts you all will bring swift and certain justice to those responsible for such evil.

  • http://www.robot-of-the-week.com Christopher Rose

    Bliffle, re your #29, why do you say that? To the best of my knowledge the “BC political staff” couldn’t impose a blackout on a 5 watt bulb and if that’s not right I want to know about it!

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com Andy Marsh

    Victor – I read somewhere that they actually set up the command center that day IN the world trade center…my bro-in-law, who’s a Newark FF said there was no upper echelon left in NYC that day to call for help. I remember being told as a kid that they wer egonna be there forever…the Ronzoni boxes!

    I’ve also met the guys at House 10 and talked to them some. Incredible guys I tell ya…just incredible!

  • http://musical-guru.blogspot.com/ Michael J. West

    It is less a “Hallmark” moment and more a moment to be marked as hallowed.

    THE SECRET TO CONSECRATING SEPTEMBER 11:

    Shut the Hell up about it for the other 364 days of the year.

    I susepct that the reason some people want to forget 9/11, or move on from it, is that they’ve been beat over the head with it several dozen times too many.

    Well-intentioned people have mentioned 9/11 constantly, beginning on 9/12. It was necessary for a while, to make sense of what happened and to figure out what to do next.

    But there comes a time in which every new utterance of the term “9/11″ serves to desensitize people – to cheapen the meaning and ramifications of 9/11. Mention it every day, all the time, and how can you be surprised when people stop thinking of it as extraordinary?

    Thus I propose a strict limitation on talking about 9/11 from today, September 13, until next September 8. Maybe that way, when the next anniversary rolls around, people won’t be as sick to death of hearing about 9/11 as I’m guessing they were this anniversary.

  • Victor Lana

    Michael, I can understand your feelings, but please try to understand mine (and many others too). We lost someone, and in that there is not just one day a year to deal with, but 364 other ones. It’s omnipresent and does not ease up as years pass. I wish mourning were that simple.

  • http://musical-guru.blogspot.com/ Michael J. West

    I understand your feelings too, Victor. But I do wish to reiterate: rehashing and revisiting 9/11 ad infinitem, 365 days a year, is PRECISELY what makes other people not want to hear about, talk about, or think about it anymore, even on its anniversary.

    And I speak as someone who watched the plane go into the Pentagon.

    Thus if someone who wants to “move on” seems to you to be “despicably callous” – well, “callous” is a fitting word: it means “hardened and desensitized as a result of prolonged exposure.”

    I don’t mean this to sound as nasty as it does (genuinely, I don’t), but those who rehash and revisit 9/11 ad infinitem, 365 days a year, are the “prolonged exposure.” Does this include you? If so, and if people have become callous about 9/11, it is you who have helped to make them so.

  • Catey

    I have never heard it rehashed and spoken of like you state it Michael. Im my everyday life I have never experienced this mind boggling, all out assault of speaking about 9/11 that your talking about.Maybe you need to take a break from this site and other sources that do talk about it and rehash it 365.Change the channel.Watch cartoons :)

  • http://musical-guru.blogspot.com/ Michael J. West

    I’m not talking about a mind-boggling, all-out assault, Catey. I’m talking about every time someone says “Have you forgotten what happened on 9/11?” or “9/11 changed everything” or told the story of where you were on 9/11.

    You don’t have to rant and rave about it: After a while, every time you talk about it at all, it contributes to desensitizing people.

  • Nancy

    Mike, amen to that. I hear it even more than you do, since I’m with a fire/rescue dept – & we were there at the Pentagon w/in the hour of the plane striking. So I’m aware firsthand of the horror, etc. BUT – since that day, I hear nothing but 9/11-9/11-9/11 – USUALLY by those who want to exploit it, like the MSM, who gabble about it incessently, & the filthy pols, who use it to try to advance their own selfish interests. I DO wish someone would hold a major memorial on 9/11 – & pointedly DISinvite the politicians & attention-grabbers. Something like: ‘…no elected or political personalities need apply….’

    Later we sent a couple of our vehicles up to NYC to help with the searches. I didn’t go, but that was pretty rending for those that did. I certainly heard all about it in detail, as well as saw a lot of personal & upclose photos our guys took while there. Awful. And NOT to be endlessly hashed over & USED by opportunists, dammit.

  • Victor Lana

    I do agree with you Nancy about people who shouldn’t be there (which includes ALL politicians). This is a solemn event, and during such somber moments we don’t to see these poeple who are trying to somehow benefit from such tragedy.

  • http://musical-guru.blogspot.com/ Michael J. West

    I know, I know how insensitive I’ve sounded on this thread. Especially insensitive in that I’m talking this way to you, Victor, who’ve proven yourself time and again to be a thoughtful and sensitive writer.

    It’s just that I need, desperately, to live in a world where EVERYTHING is not a reminder of 9/11. Constantly I’m exposed to images of the Towers, or descriptions of it, or those goddamned morons who insist that it was controlled demolition. 9/11 is not something that I can forget or move on from. Because 9/11 is EVERYWHERE.

    I can’t spend every day for the rest of my life re-living that event.

    I think it would be very appropriate to spend every September 11 thinking about that day. Discussing it. Remembering it and paying tribute to the lives lost because of it.

    But I don’t think we can reasonably do that if we’re expected to do it every other day of the year, too. Just like anything else, “9/11″ becomes meaningless if it’s repeated too often. It doesn’t matter by whom – politicians, journalists, plumbers, or college students. Politicians just happen to be the worst offenders.

  • Victor Lana

    Michael, I think everyone has to do what he or she needs to do to get healthy. Sometimes it involves going up to Vermont and living in the country, or it could be climbing a mountain or deep sea diving.

    I chose to write a book about 9/11. I lived it everyday for three years, but the writing helped. Now, I still live it and think it and feel it each day, but that doesn’t mean I’m talking about it 24/7.

    I guess each of us will find the way to get to a place where that gaping hole in lower Manhattan doesn’t eat our hearts away, but it hasn’t been easy.

  • http://musical-guru.blogspot.com/ Michael J. West

    And I apologize, Victor, if I came across like a jerk. I certainly feel like one when I reread those comments.