The last few days, I’ve been wondering how to observe the ten-year anniversary of September 11th. I’m on the road to Stanford and had about 5 hours of driving to do, so the options were somewhat limited. It’s Sunday, so I went to Mass this morning, but then I hit the road, arriving in Dallas to have dinner with family.
Actually, though, I ushered the day in at Caravan, two-stepping and line dancing with friends. It felt a little bit weird, and I was torn between the desire to observe the day with solemnity and to appreciate the simple pleasures in life, in honor of those who died.
It made me remember, very vividly, the day of mourning after the 2010 Qinghai earthquake in China. A 6.9 earthquake struck Yushu, Qinghai (western China) on April 14th, killing nearly 3,000 people. 7 days later, a national day of mourning was declared, with a sort of enforced sobriety over the entire country.
Today, the 7th day after 青海玉树地震 (the earthquake in YuShu, QingHai), was a 全国哀悼日 (national day of mourning). The Chinese seem to take this very seriously – in addition to a moment of silence and all flags 降半旗 (at half-staff), there was basically no public entertainment in the entire country – no music downloads, no QQ games, no karaoke, no dancing. Some Chinese websites went gray; others shut down. I kind of like how they do this, making it nearly impossible to go through the day without pausing a few times to think of the victims, survivors, and rescue workers.
I remember it mainly because the social dancing group, about the most regular activity that I ever encountered in China, didn’t meet because there was essentially no dancing that day.
Obviously there are differences here – terrorist attack versus natural disaster; 7 days later versus 10 years. Also a total difference between governments; could you imagine the US government mandating such an observance?
A small part of me wishes that we had no choice today but to remember. But I suppose, America is all about choice. We can choose to remember – or not – and how.