Fall brings with it lots of lovely activities: apple picking, jumping in piles of leaves and, if you live in the Pacific Northwest, the Puyallup Fair. If you know how to pronounce ‘Puyallup,’ you have probably been to this fair which has been a September highlight for our family for the past twenty years.
Ten years ago, just after 9/11, fair attendance was down as dizzying rides, sugar-laden food and down-home entertainment were incompatible with the mourning, confusion and rage gripping the country. I imagine that just as couples shied away from September 11, 2002 wedding dates, the Puyallup Fair on that day in 2002 also had lower than normal attendance rates. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that year by year attendance picked up as people squirmed less at picking September 11th for fun activities. Emotions become less raw as time goes by.
But, as high school reunion organizers know, tenth anniversaries resonate. What will happen this Sunday, September 11, 2011? For obvious reasons, Sunday is a prime fair-going day. All across America, people will be making decisions as to whether it is unseemly or not to treat the day like any other, or what that even means. While I have many days on which I can choose to attend the fair, I am not even sure what I would say if someone asked my advice as to whether they should go on Sunday or not. The biggest impact of not going might be to harm the finances of vendors – including those with family serving in the military – whose income depends on weekend crowds.
It is easier when the choice is made for us, isn’t it? This fall, my son and a few of his classmates in medical school have been informed that their grades are going to be negatively impacted by the absences they will accumulate over the upcoming Jewish holidays. This will not change their behavior; God’s directions on how to observe those festivals (which preclude being in school) are commands, not suggestions. They will accept the lower grades and I think their future patients will benefit from being treated by men and women of firm conviction. There is clarity when God is involved.
But it would be completely inappropriate for there to be a ‘command from on high’ from the government on how to commemorate the anniversary of September 11th. As the years pass and fewer people are able to answer the question, “Where were you when you heard the news?” the date will move into history as December 7th has.
However, this year, most of us not only still remember, but can still resurrect the feelings of horror which overwhelmed us in 2001. The pain of the widows and orphans, parents and friends, and of the whole nation is still fresh and indeed, unlike ten years after Pearl Harbor, we have not yet defeated the enemy. How should we behave this Sunday? What will you be doing?