It is a cliche to say this, but like everybody in Washington–and elsewhere–I really do remember Sept. 11, 2001, as if it were yesterday. The shocking news reports, the confusion about what had been hit and what still might be; the decision to pick my kids up from school rather than leave them there in lockdown–it’s hard to believe a decade, almost, has passed since the vivid events of that morning. I live in the same house; I have the same neighbors, mostly; the same job; my kids are older, yes, but still in school, still needing to be picked up and driven places. It just doesn’t seem that long ago that it happened.
It’s hard to believe that in that same short span of years, a child born on that day had the time and the grace to mature sufficiently to realize the worldwide import of her birthday; that she resolved to take Sept. 11 as an inspiration to work for a better society; that she considered it exciting and meaningful to wear red, white, and blue; that at such a young age she already possessed the leadership qualities to run for student council, and win; that she had developed such a pronounced interest in public affairs that a neighbor would think it natural to take her to a nearby political event, especially one that offered a female role model. That all this could happen in nine short years is just so hard to get your mind around. That a life could originate, grow, blossom, begin to realize promise, and succumb to yet another spasm of violence and random hate.
Christina Taylor Green’s funeral is today. She was the youngest victim in the Tucson shooting. A U.S. flag that flew over the World Trade Center , and survived its collapse, has been transported for display at her funeral. Its meaning will take some time to ponder. Certainly it stands for sadness, and the tragic irony inherent in her dates of birth and death. But also, one hopes, it stands for achievement and even for overcoming. Her time was so short, and she seems to have been so determined to transcend the meaning of her birth date, to turn it into something better and something new. What was I doing in those years when she was doing so much? Hardly anything, it seems to me, thinking about it. At least, hardly anything, compared to her. Childhood is like that–the astonishing growth, the marvelous development, the rapid achievement of milestones. Her childhood seems to have been unusually accomplished–she was a swimmer, a natural athlete, the only girl on her Little League baseball team, she wanted to start learning the guitar–and she should have had so very much more time than she did. If she had, it seems clear, she would have gotten such great things done. The loss is everyone’s.