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Remember

Click Here to Read Sciabarra's Various Tributes to the World Trade Center

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About a year ago I had a tiny chat with Elie Wiesel. I told him I thought his philosophy could be summed up in just one word: "Remember."

But despite the depth of his wisdom and the undeniable beauty of his soul, I also told him I thought he was wrong. The most important word and philosophy, I said, is "Understand."

He was taken aback by my comment. Perhaps appropriately, he didn't seem to understand. But after a long and rather painful pause, he said with quiet dignity that altho' understanding is important, you first have to ~remember~, and understanding is only possible and can only follow after this.

But I would still respectfully submit that the term "remember" is weak philosophically. It reminds me of the Buddhist term and ideal "compassion." Both are rather limited.

And what we all surely need to ~understand~ -- today on 9/11 -- is that Islam is evil, religion is evil, and all of illiberalism is evil.

Chris,

Your cousin's story is deeply moving, as are so many other tales of the true heroism shown by New York's residents that day. I'm fortunate never to have been involved in such a crisis, but if I ever am I can only hope that I cope with the situation as well as your cousin did that day.

For those who may be interested, I posted my own thoughts on this anniversary on my own blog:

http://mhumph.blogspot.com/2006/09/five-years-on.html

MH

Matthew, thank you for sharing your thoughts as well.

I set foot in the WTC as a first-time visitor to NYC in 1986, and the whole week I spent in Manhattan that year I always got a thrill gazing downtown to see them, noble and serene, keeping watch over the island.

5 years ago, I was doing much what I'm doing right now--surfing on the 'net trying to work up the energy to get ready for work--when a friend IM'd me about the news. By the time we heard about it in SoCA, I think both towers had been attacked and the Pentagon as well. I fliped on the television. Just couldn't believe it. It all seemed so surreal.

I did get to work that day, but I don't remember a whole lot of work getting done. One of my office mates had a radio and we listened to the news all day. Our offices are less than a mile from a Naval Air Station, so I was uneasy that someone might go after military bases, as well.

A friend of my significant other's mom was in NYC that day, having a meeting very near the WTC. She barely made it out alive--saved by a New Jersey woman who saw her wandering dazed through the streets--a stranger up until that moment--who let her stay in her home until the flight moratorium was over.

I will never forget that day.

Andre, thanks for relating the story of your encounter with Elie Weasel, whose books I've read with great interest through the years.

Of course, I agree with you completely that the key is "understanding," not simply remembering. But I do think that there is something to be said for the act of remembering; in the context of this thread and its related threads, it is an act of memorial to those who lost their lives.

But it is also an essential ingredient in the process of understanding. It is a cliche, for sure, but those who suffer from historical amnesia---the inability or unwillingness to remember the events of the past---are doomed to repeat them (and I'm tempted to add as Marx once did, echoing Hegel, first as tragedy, then as farce).

Peri, Matthew, thanks so much for relating your stories and thoughts.