September 11th & 13th
By A.D. Freudenheim  

13 September 2005

Sunday, September 11th, 2005 was a beautiful day in New York: sunny, clear, and not too hot. It was also the fourth anniversary, as everyone surely knows, of the attacks on New York City and the Pentagon. In keeping with tradition – my own tradition, anyway – I chose to remember that horrible day by doing whatever I would normally do, because I believe firmly that the biggest message from those attacks is this: we Americans must continue to pursue vigorously a life lived according to the freedoms and principles we hold so dear.

This year, my wife and I took a bike ride down the greenway that runs along the Hudson River, from the Upper West Side down to Chambers Street. This was a seven mile ride that allowed us to marvel at the beauty of the city (even during those blocks of ugliness we passed on the way) and the sheer joy of being a New Yorker.

In a sense, though, I also delayed my remembrance of the September 11th attacks until today: primary election day here in New York. I got up and went to vote early, and over the course of the subsequent 13 hours – as I passed campaign people on the streets, as I checked the news periodically – the connection between the attacks four years ago and my ability to vote today remained vivid. Nothing could be more democratic, more celebratory of our freedoms as Americans, than being able to go to the polls, peacefully, as part of the process of choosing who it is that should represent us, the people.

As I write this, the polls are not yet closed; there is still a little more than a half-hour to go. Yet by all accounts, voter turn-out was very light. How sad, particularly two days after this anniversary! Perhaps when the politicians, families, and other mourners gathered last Sunday for their memorial services – at “ground zero” in downtown New York, at the Pentagon, and in a lonely field in rural Pennsylvania – during the process of remembering the tragedy that took more than 2,000 lives, they should also have taken the opportunity to remind us, all of us across the country, to celebrate our freedoms and exercise our rights, and to vote.

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