What's the best way to commemorate 9/11 ten years later?
Well, it's ten years later.
The tragic events of 9/11/01 were a full decade ago as of Sunday, and now it's an anniversary of sorts, a national holiday even called Patriot Day. Ten years is a long time, especially in the the context of how quickly our lives move these days. It's a wonder we can even remember how we felt or where we were that day. But somehow, we still do.
So, in honor of the tenth anniversary of 9/11: How are we supposed to feel about it? What, if anything, should we be doing to commemorate? It seems wrong to do nothing, but it also seems morbid to spend a day doing more than remembering the lives that were lost and moving forward. It's also just one day. What about the rest of the weekend?
For some, this weekend will be harder than for others. For others, it's a time to rejoice and celebrate our progression forward into the future. And for these reasons, the upcoming weekend is a tricky mishmash of joyful and diverse events reflecting the backgrounds and attitudes that make Austin such a cleverly layered melting pot.
The Austin Interfaith Arts & Music Festival is a terrific way to appreciate all the delicious flavors of Austin's multicultural makeup. The stage at the St. Ignatious Family Center will feature members of our city's international communities sharing their faiths, traditions and nationalities through musical performances and a juried art show. Special guest Ustad Ghulam Farid Nizami will perform on Saturday evening at the Central Presbyterian Church.
One group in particular will be celebrating their native food at the Burleson County Kolache Festival on Saturday. The Czechs of Burleson want everyone to know they're still around and making delicious flaky pastries filled with some of the best ingredients you can put inside. Besides the foods, you'll see traditional crafts, hear Czech music and even get to dance to traditional polka!
Saturday is also Austin's PRIDE celebration throughout the streets of downtown Austin. Rainbow flags and tiny tight tank tops will be flying at full mast all day long as our city's lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer populations (and their allies!) enjoy the sun on their likely-exposed skin. The PRIDE Rainbow Run 5K kicks off at 8 a.m. by the Long Center, the downtown Parade starts at 10:30 a.m., and the vendor-heavy Festival and performances kick off at noon at Fiesta Gardens. The Parade is free, but the Festival will set you back more than you might imagine. But that's the price of fabulousness these days.
If staying indoors is more your speed, you can still get your rainbow connection at the 24th Annual Austin Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival, or aGLIFF. With over 40 films sprinkled throughout the week, you've got the chance to see some of the best work of indie directors and screenwriters that you won't get to see in the big theaters. There's even a big gay ("Majestic") dance party at the Paramount Theater after the headliner movie, Mangus, plays on Saturday night.
Of course, the Alamo's got you covered in the movie department as well. And following their credo of keeping it real, they've got some special events planned for 9/11. Get your tickets now for one (or both) of the two Quote-Alongs of Team America: World Police. If that's not scandalous enough for you, try the movie the Drafthouse made themselves when they realized no one else had the chutzpah to make it: Four Lions. This unrelenting, unapologetic satire is exactly the kind of chaotic event the Alamo offers to help us overcome, as they put it, "the deeply bracing absurdity and dumbness that creeps into our collective souls when we are faced with a darkness we can't fathom."
Too real? Let's mix it up with the strangest best-intentioned memorial event. On Sunday, The Texas Firewalkers are commemorating the lives of the 343 firemen who died saving lives in the 9/11 attacks with a 110-story Memorial Stair Climb. One participant will take a number, representing each of the firemen that risked their lives to save others. In teams of 4-6, participants will make it to the top of the 300 West 6th skyscraper, pausing only for moments of silence at the exact moments the planes hit each tower. Afterward, in a shockingly overt gesture, participants are then welcome to enjoy free chicken wings and fries at the Hooter's Restaurant on Riverside. God bless, America.
A bit more consistently wholesome, the City of Austin will be hosting The September Concert at Austin City Hall on Monday. (I know it's not the weekend, but it's thematically appropriate!) This international music event features music as a way of bringing people together and reminding them that peace is a universally held ideal throughout humanity. To help remind us about the future, the group U Better Sing and the Austin's Children's Choir will be singing for all those who attend.
Clearly, life goes on in Austin, New York and beyond. Perhaps the tenth anniversary doesn't need to hold tremendous precedence over, say, the ninth or the eighty-second anniversary. It'll always be a part of the American landscape, at least while those of us who were alive remember it.
Maybe we should instead take time this weekend to discuss it with those around us and be grateful that we are able to keep moving forward.