There Are No Words

Of course I remember September 11th, 2001. Not a soul who was of age to
remember it will ever forget. And no matter what that day was going to be for them, when it started, it ended up different.

I was supposed to move that morning, only the truck broke down. We got a call quite early — at my mother’s house, where I’d been staying between apartments — that the hauling of stuff would have to wait a day. Sure, I could have gone over to the new place and spent the night there anyway; the events that soon unfolded, though, called for family. I sat and watched Peter Jennings cover the unfathomable news just as I had 25 years earlier, home from school with the flu on the day the Challenger was lost.

That’s all you’ll hear me say directly about the grim scenes whose 10th anniversary we mark today because, really, there are no words.

What to do, then? How to do… something? It’s human nature to ask questions of oneself and the universe, to wring hands, to point fingers, to decry how much and yet how little has changed, to shout, to weep, to distract, to pray, to wish. Yet in my experience dwelling on the dark moment in our history that the media and popular jargon has, to me uncomfortably, dubbed “9/11” inexorably leads to politics — to maddening, trivializing, pathetic arguments. So what to do?

There are no words, but there can be deeds.

You can spend time with loved ones. You can watch reflections upon the day that restrict themselves to the purest tales of heroism and hope that sprung from that day and the days that followed — to the message that we are all in this thing called life together; we are here to better ourselves and to be good to one another; we shall not let hate of any kind, from any corner, win the war nor even wave its flag over the battlefield despite its having won a battle. You can be kind and give of yourself. You can educate or be educated.

Many of us have precious little energy or money to give, but small gestures can still make a big difference in the aggregate. While no effort or organization is unanimously embraced, I’ve found the following causes to be largely apolitical, fairly universally worthy ones based on recommendations and research. If stories about questionable distribution of funds at The Red Cross trouble you, Operation USA and Doctors without Borders have impressive reputations in terms of money in and money out; you can always give blood instead instead of cash, too. If you somehow see the memorial at the World Trade Center site as distasteful, then surely there are local shelters, food banks, and the like that could use your help, very possibly in person rather than in coin. I have tried to link to suggested areas of philanthropy that are non-ideological and indeed quite basic in their promotion of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — the last of which sometimes seems so much further down the road than the first two for so many families here and abroad that it virtually smacks of hedonism — and I hope that you find something here that spurs you into action.

Click to read more about and donate to
The National September 11th Memorial & Museum logo
Click to read more about and donate to

Feeding America logo
Click to read more about and donate to Feeding America

American Red Cross logo
Click to read more about and donate to The American Red Cross

ICRC logo
Click to read more about and donate to The International
Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

Operation USA: 'Give and It Gets There' logo
Click to read more about and donate to Operation USA

Doctors without Borders / Médecins sans Frontiers logo
Click to read more about and donate to
Doctors without Borders / Médecins sans Frontièrs

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