Konichiwa, Dear Japanese Friends,
As we once again approach the saddest days of the year — August 6 and 9 for you, September 11 for us — I am struck by the insignificance of the number of years we mark in the face of the true meaning of each day. Please allow me to explain.
In 2010, with much sadness, your country observed the 65th commemoration of the days you suffered horrific attacks at the hands of our country. This year our country will solemnly observe the 10th commemoration of the day we suffered a horrific attack from a terrorist group. These milestones occur in years that correspond in multiples of five. We humans have an obsession with the order and comfort we see in numbers, and so we come to give special dates that fall in such years more ignificance than those that fall in other years.
But there is no inherent order, no ability to neatly control and manage the effect on humanity of these events. And certainly no solace in the observance merely based on the passage of time since it occurred. The reality is that the number of years, neatly divisible by five or not, is not important. The number of lives affected it. What is that number of lives? It isn’t the number killed, or the number wounded, or the number of survivors that matters most. It is the incalculable number of people affected by our joint tragedies.
For you and I , those affected by the bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 is enormous, as it includes people across many generations all over the planet. For my part, as someone who has visited the Hiroshima Memorial Peace Park and talked directly with Hibakusha about their experiences, the effect is deep and permanent and has become my own.
For our sad day, the effect is more recent, but continues to grow as it similarly ripples across the planet and history, and we know that it has become yours, too.
I recently talked with a person of Mayan descent about the upcoming milestone b’ak’tun 13 they will observe in December 2012. The media has also made much of this milestone, but in truth it too is really just another year in their cycle of time-counting. The man told me, “It is true that December 21, 2012 is really just a day in which the Mayan Long Count begins again, but we hope it will be a year in which significant changes occur in the human consciousness. Our planet and our species cannot afford for the current abusive mindset to continue.”
And so we all hope. Each time we commemorate a significant event, our shared wish is for the collective consciousness of the world to shift, if even just a little, to a gentler, more realistic approach to peaceful human coexistence. Whether the dates of the observances are ten years, sixty-five years, or thousands of years from the tragedies, the significance of the events that we are commemorating is what’s important. Whether the tribute falls on an even or odd year, and whether the event commemorated involved one person or one billion people, the lessons we should learn are unchanged.
We must not forget these lessons. We must hold dear and sacred not only the memories of lives lost and those who have been suffering since, but the knowledge that humans can do better than one, two or many terrible events suggest. We can do better, far better, and we must do so.
So this year, as always, we at September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows send our support, our prayers, our love and our heartfelt wishes to you as we commemorate these sad days for all of humanity. We hope that by your steadfast example and observance we will all continue to learn and practice the only lesson that can save our world, the message of peace.
Ai to heiwa,
September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows