So I’m having dinner with guests, and the topic comes up about this guy who gets stabbed to death on the Southside a few nights ago. Since it’s about crime there is this pause and everyone looks at me, and while I am only thinking of the mouthful of asparagus that I am trying to contend with at the moment, I realize the spotlight is on me and I decide to say something appropriate, because that’s what I do.
“Yeah, crap, that’s awful,” I said. Hey, am I a genius or what?
As it turns out, I’m not. For whatever reason, these people assume I should have some type of serious response to this despite years of apathy that has built up like plaque on the inside of a toilet bowl, because that’s exactly what I’ve become.
Silence prevailing, I looked around for a few seconds more and tried to think of something more palatable to say.
“I mean, he had his whole life to live,” I said, not knowing how old he was or anything else about him, for that matter. The people at the table began to look around at one another, satisfied with this answer. Thank God, I thought.
It’s not that I’m a bad person, or that I don’t have a heart for the tragedies that befall the youth and adults of our local populace. It’s just that I’ve seen a lot of it, and I know that in my mind at least 90 percent of it is preventable. In order to deal with it, you have to place it in the correct container. And when it comes to my brain, there are a lot of containers. Some are new, some are very, very old—most look as if they have been left out in the sun too long and have gotten weak and thin with age.
I’m the one that has to contend with them cracking open and spilling out, not the guests at a dinner table. So what should I have to apologize for when it comes to scaling down the dramatics of their contents? Until I realize that I’m dealing with normal people, however. What a drag.
As it turns out, that’s not what prompted this column. One of our columnists last week discussed his feelings when it came to removing someone from his friends list or his cell phone when they passed away.
It was only then that I realized that Sept. 11 had come and gone, and that I hadn’t discussed it in what would normally be an understandable forum such as this. The fact that I overlooked it struck me as odd. So here I am now, typing this into my favorite laptop and wondering how I missed it in the first place, like so many other landmarks in my life.
The truth? I drove to work this last Tuesday, another Sept. 11, just like the original in 2001. Eleven years had passed.
I had to let it go as far as I was concerned. Another horrible landmark in the history of mankind, even if it was more poignant to one in my profession as opposed to most others. And as it turns, I thought I had let it go, until I listened to the standard replay of the sequence of events that happened around 9 a.m. that morning so long ago. Before I knew it, I was choking back a tear, the first in many years that anniversary. I found myself sitting in my parking space behind the same parking lot I drove to at breakneck speed the morning that happened.
Moving beyond something is healthy. How could I ever deny that? But to forget it is to doom yourself to repeat it, and that would be worse.
For that reason, I never want to let it go. I am annoyed that it took a local radio station to remind me of how sad I really was without my knowing it, but it did. And it worked.
Never let those feelings go, never really forget. It’s a small favor, but a small favor to those that can’t remember anything anymore. And to those in the future that will never know unless you tell them.
Alex Teach is a full-time police officer of nearly 20 years experience. The opinions expressed are his own. Follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/alex.teach.