That’s how Mark Bingham’s father described tomorrow’s ceremony in Shanksville laying to rest the remains of the passengers on Flight 93. He’s spent 10 years attending memorial services for his son but this will be, at long last, the final goodbye. I’ve been straining to find something to say that would be equal to the moment but Bingham’s already done it, so let me stand on that instead. This is our last funeral. Yesterday the crash site in Shanksville became a memorial, today Ground Zero became one too. Living memory is officially History, replete with names on walls and a museum to introduce visitors to something that most adults now on Earth watched live on television. The next major anniversary will be a generation removed from the attacks, with the average college student having been born a few years before or after but in either case having no recollection of what happened. It’ll have to be explained to them, and some of us who endured it won’t be here to explain. I spent last night grieving at the thought that young New Yorkers are already watching footage of the planes hit the towers and feeling no electric charge of familiarity; in a way, the World Trade Center to them will be what the Polo Grounds is to me, a landmark from a lost New York but never part of their own template of where they grew up. When asked where the attacks happened, they’ll say “where the Freedom Tower is.” We live in the same city, but we don’t really.
This is, then, our last funeral in the sense that it’s the last that’s truly “ours.” The shared experience, already slightly diminished, will soon begin to erode in earnest, and while people will never forget, increasingly they won’t exactly “remember” either. Count yourself lucky that you have memories of the world as it was before, not because it was better but because it’s gone. Others aren’t so fortunate. Click the image to watch.