by J J Cohen
The anniversary of September 11, 2001, will be commemorated here in DC by the dedication of a new memorial at the Pentagon.
One of my students told me Tuesday that she'll be absent from class: she wants to honor her uncle, who died in that building. Since I woke up this morning I've been thinking about a former neighbor, David Charlebois, the copilot on American Airlines 77. He and his partner had a dog named Chance who scampered Meridian Hill Park with our own mutt, Scooby. Today I cannot shake the grip an image has upon me, a smiling three year old whose bench at the memorial is set at such distance from the other markers. Since the seats are arranged by date of birth, the nearest is that of his sister, age eight.
A poem by W. H. Auden, Musee de Beaux Arts, haunts me every year on this day. When we had a faculty meeting on September 13, 2001 -- the first time we in the English Department gathered after the events -- the novelist Maxine Clair asked if she might speak first. Maxine read the Auden poem in a voice wounded and powerful. Our eyes welled. She then asked us to turn to the person beside us, to look at them deeply, to see what was good. We cried, and we did.