Remembering on 9/11

September 10, 2021 in Hazzan Asa Fradkin

I’m not a crier. But I remember the first anniversary was an emotional one. I was living in an apartment just a block from my old dorm, and I had the news switched on that morning, September 11, 2002. The music, patriotic and colored with sadness, soared behind a picture of an American flag as the names appeared on screen.

I cried. Thinking of those who lost their lives for the crime of showing up to work and now just a name scrolled on my tiny TV screen, was too much.

Years later I would meet Ralph Sabag, whose son Jason had died in the attacks that day. Ralph was a semi regular at minyan and Shabbat services. He spoke softly, and repeated Jason’s story often; recounting the way he lived, his interests, his work, and the world he had created. A world that was wiped away on September 11th.

It was powerful to simply bear witness to Ralph’s suffering; to the ongoing tragedy of losing a child in such a senseless way. There are countless other stories that we will hear over the next few days as we commemorate the 20th anniversary of the tragedy heard round the world.

This morning, on NPR’s StoryCorps, I heard the story of Ronnie Palazzolo, a twin who lost his brother Richie, in the north tower. On the subject of loss and grief, Ronnie said memorably that “Every day is Yesterday. I miss my brother every day. He’s the first thing I think about in the morning and the last thing I think about before I fall asleep.”

As Yizkor approaches with the Yom Kippur holiday, we all share a bit of Ronnie’s pain and grief, knowing that for many in our community it is still Yesterday. The pain is still fresh, the wounds still open and sore.

Memory is our way of giving life to those whose physical presence has gone from us. On Yom Kippur, we ask that God remembers us for life and seals is in the Book of Life.

On this Yizkor we ask God to heal our wounds, be with us in grief, and help use the memories of those we’ve lost to guide us forward.

Gmar Tov and Shabbat Shalom.