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The Daily Tar Heel

Let the Season Turn, Change Our Times

Friday made me think that fall would come soon, and I felt really happy in that muted sort of way that any good news has been lately.

I almost felt guilty. Why should changing seasons really merit any attention in the wake of Tuesday's devastation?

At that point, I was slowly coming out of a dizzying few days, where the conversations I had and all the articles I read dealt with the same issues. I wanted them to.

Some of my classes Friday hadn't met since the tragedies due to Wednesday's vigil. I assumed we would start off discussing how we felt, as we had in all of my other classes. When we didn't, I felt a little betrayed.

I know that at some point we have to get out of the mourning stage.

Some people are probably already there -- some people, very understandably, won't be for a long time. But ultimately even the people directly involved will start thinking about other things too.

Soon, the flags on federal buildings will be raised to full mast again.

I think they should be. We need to live our lives, follow our routines and continue to meet our obligations, even if we're still sad.

Though what happens when the grief fades and we stop feeling so raw and vulnerable and even start to act giddy and silly again sometimes?

I don't know what the next stage should be. Most people will view the tragedies differently and argue for different responses. Whatever each of us chooses, though, let's not simply allow our next stage to be a dulled version of the first stage. Let's not merely feel the same anger and sadness we felt initially but in lesser amounts and only in certain situations.

People keep saying that Sept. 11 will change us in fundamental ways. And, some things probably will change regardless of what we do personally -- airport security, what we imagine when we step on a plane or go to New York City or Washington D.C., how we feel every Sept. 11 or every time we hear about Afghanistan. Those things are decided. Certainly, we'll feel different in these instances, but it's not enough.

To change ourselves as individuals or even to contemplate the issues beyond anger and sadness require conscious effort. If we want to ensure that these events continue to impact us and force us to see things differently, we can't just carry on about our business and wonder how we'll change.

We have to decide how we want these tragedies to transform us. And in many ways it's a personal choice.

Some people might decide to follow current events and international relations more closely or even look at a map and learn the locations of those countries they can't quite place.

Other people might consider a career change, a change in politics, or a change in their personal philosophies.

For other people, it might just mean doing what the self-help books and Hallmark cards preach -- soaking up as much of life as possible, making decisions they consider moral, loving the people around them and living in such a way that they take pride in their lives.

For the sake of the people hurt by Sept. 11, let's offer more than a general sense of loss. Even if it simply means feigning interest in your mother's stories you've heard a thousand times before -- allow these events to alter you in some way.

This weekend, I'm looking forward to a lot. Saturday, we have our first home football game, with cheerleaders, the dance team, the band, screaming fans wearing blue and white, families watching the game together.

On Sunday, I'm going to my roommate's hometown with some friends for a fall festival, where we'll man a face-painting table, (with extra red, white and blue paint this year).

None of these events suggests that people are moving on or forgetting. Like a lot of people have said, old things mean something new lately.

Five years from now, though, when the shock has passed, let's hold on to whatever it is we now see differently.

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Marian Crotty can be reached at mcrotty@email.unc.edu.

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