The momentous anniversary has come and gone, and the nation will move forward, as always. Yet to many Americans, the concept of "moving on" from Sept. 11 doesn't make sense.
"This is going to be part of our consciousness, part of our soul, part of our history forever," said Jeff Parness, a New York venture capitalist who lost one of his closest friends in the attacks 10 years ago. "I don't think it's anybody's place to tell somebody else you've got to get over it."
Preceded by months of buildup, Sunday's 10th anniversary commemorations produced a remarkable nationwide sharing of sadness and determination — an occasion calling for solidarity at a time of wrenching political divisions.
Now it's back to work, back to politicking and campaigning, back to worrying if and when the economy will right itself. Even New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose entire decade in office has been intertwined with 9/11, depicted the anniversary as "a time to rededicate ourselves to look forward."
Across the Hudson River, at a service on the site where injured World Trade Center evacuees were treated in 2001, Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy sounded a similar note.
"It's important to remember and reflect," Healy said. "It's equally important to press on, to move on, to take care of today and tomorrow, but not to fixate on yesterday."
However, Parness said the appropriate way to approach the future would be look back thoughtfully — and remember the positive responses that emerged in the immediate aftermath of the attacks.
"People ask me personally how I deal with 9/11, and I tell them, 'I don't.' I choose to think about 9/12," Parness said.
"I choose to think about what it was like as a New Yorker, for people in small towns all around the United States, people around the world, go out of their ways to be with us in our time of need. I choose to think about that spirit of kindness and humanity and volunteerism."
Like many Americans, Parness was trying to rekindle that spirit over the weekend as he and other New York-based volunteers brought a tattered American flag recovered at Ground Zero to the tornado-stricken city of Joplin, Mo. Hundreds of tornado survivors waited patiently in line for a chance to sew a stitch into the flag.
Altruism also was on Pam Harcarik's mind as she wiped away tears in Hilliard, Ohio, while recounting her 9/11 experience and her approach to moving forward.
Harcarik, who works for the Ohio Emergency Management Agency, was called to New York City to help oversee goods donated to the city after the attacks.
"One of the stupid things that gets to me is right around this time of year, the sky gets that blue, blue color that you saw in all the pictures.... I just hate this time of year," she said.
Ten years on, she's starting to feel better.
"I think you can try to get past it by trying to focus on all of the good things that came out of it — the camaraderie that we had, the people that you met that were incredible examples of humanity."
The Rev. Michael Kinnamon, New York-based general secretary of the National Council of Churches, said he could understand the emotions of Americans who are wearying of 9/11 events.
"But as I looked at the commemorations, it was quite clear they were moving to those who had lost a loved one, or had been personally touched," he said Monday. "It's difficult to make a judgment about this issue at a distance, because people have been affected so differently."
Moving forward, he said, America should reflect on lessons that it should have learned from 9/11 and do a better job of protecting civil liberties and reaching out to the Muslim community.
"I would hope we'll move on and recover those key values," he said.
Michael McDonough, an architect whose 9/11 memorial was dedicated Sunday in Bennington, Vt., said Americans shouldn't be in a hurry to consign Sept. 11 to the history books.
"In many respects, we're still paying the price for that awful day," he said. "Those of us who lived at the time of 9/11 have a responsibility to see to it that younger generations don't forget, in the same way that we have remembered the significance of Pearl Harbor."
Among those attending the dedication was Don Goodrich, 68, a Bennington lawyer whose son, Peter, was killed aboard one of the planes hijacked on 9/11.
"Will Sept. 11 be remembered? Of course it will — it's a seminal event in our nation's history," Goodrich said. "But life changes. People move on."
Inevitably, the pervasive media coverage of the anniversary made the events of 10 years ago all the more vivid in America's collective memory.
"It's been 10 years, but sometimes, it's like yesterday," said Steubenville, Ohio, policeman Eric Hart, who helped his Catholic church organize a Mass to honor 9/11 victims.
"Anytime you want to look at it you just go to the Internet or whatever, or it's on TV," he said. "It's like, 'Oh my God.' You're right back to it. You remember where you were or what happened, everything."
At Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, former Army reservist Jerran Leber, 26, was on hand for a Freedom Walk commemorating the anniversary.
"I don't think we can ever move on from it," said Leber, of Annapolis, Md. "I don't think we should ever move on."
He suggested simple ways to honor those who died without falling prey to fear or sadness. "Just take time out of your day and stop and ponder how great it is to be an American."
Harvey Schlossberg, a professor at St. John's University and former director of psychological services with the New York City Police Department, said the concept of "moving on" from 9/11 is complicated because of the variety of ways that Americans were affected.
"It's not only a personal loss for some people, it's also about a loss of your personal freedom," he said, referring to tighter security measures.
"We can say, 'Get on with life,'" Schlossberg said. "But what makes this much more difficult is it also changed our way of life. We're more afraid. There's a lack of trust and loss of independence."
Patrick Bienvenue, 56, of Rockport, Maine, flew out of Boston's Logan International Airport on a business trip Sunday in a deliberate effort to maintain his routine and not give in to any fear of terrorism.
"A show of strength and resilience by the people of our country is very important," said Bienvenue, an executive for a real estate development and management company. "It's moving on with your outlook and your attitude.
"Let's get going. Isn't that what makes this country great? Our resilience, our drive to get up and work to change things."
Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Matthew Barakat in Arlington, Va.; John Curran in Bennington, Vt.; Alan Scher Zagier in Joplin, Mo.; Denise Lavoie in Boston; Andy Brownfield and Kantele Franko in Columbus, Ohio; and Samantha Henry in Jersey City, N.J.
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