Yesterday, there were no miniature flags around the Love statue. There was no vigil on campus. There wasn’t even silence.
For those who wondered how many years would pass before 9/11 would just be another ordinary day for Penn: 12.
Yesterday showed that, at least on Penn’s campus, we treat 9/11 more like the anniversary of Pearl Harbor — a pivotal event, but also one that’s over seven decades removed — than the anniversary of the watershed moment of early 21st-century American life.
It’s not like 9/11 didn’t leave scars on Philly, even if the physical city was left unscathed. Twelve years and one day ago, anyone walking down Locust would’ve encountered a well-preserved ghost town. Students stayed in their dorms, and some professors didn’t even commute to campus.
Of all places, members of the Penn community have a plethora of ties to New York and D.C. There are certainly some who were directly affected by the attacks that day or who knew someone who was — this topic still is and should be sensitive to many in the Penn community.
Twelve years is not that long. Today, everyone on Penn’s campus is old enough to remember where they were on 9/11. Some students have even shared those memories on past anniversaries at Penn in classes and memorials.
Perhaps in a few years, 9/11 will be yet another tragically storied day that future students can only relate to through stories, textbooks and movies. But that time hasn’t come yet.
Indeed, we did see and experience some passive acts of remembrance. At times, our Facebook newsfeeds were inundated with touching statuses. And maybe it’s just us, but we’re pretty sure that when some people wrote “9/11” on their notes or assignments, it struck them just a little.
But we shouldn’t relegate that visceral reaction, even if brief, to just a passive moment between looking down at our notebook and returning our attention to the blackboard in front of us. It’s a little disquieting that the only place our grief congregated was online.
There should be — should have been — some physical outlet for members of our community to come together, even if just for a minute. We understand the impetus to move on, and we should, but just a dozen years after the fact, there should be some semblance of memorial.
We’re not disappointed with any individuals or any groups. We’re not even completely surprised. Last year, few people showed up to the school-wide vigil — and this is natural: Time heals all wounds, and as it moves on, so do we.
Nonetheless, if it’s natural, it’s sadly natural, and we can’t help but feel a bit melancholy.
For the first time in a long time, there was no moment of silence yesterday. We should at least take a moment to reflect on that.
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