Ten years does not mean anything in particular. It’s an arbitrary figure, perhaps more related to the number of fingers on the human hand than anything else. Furthermore, it's just not that long.
My memories of 9/11/01 are unremarkable, but they are crystal-clear. Ten years ago today, I left my conducting class at the Jewish Theological Seminary, just as the world was turning upside-down.
I remember the panicked looks, the people rushing down the street with their phones out, trying to get in touch with loved ones.
I remember the hastily-gathered school assembly, the anxious expressions of friends and colleagues around the room, the collective never-before-felt uncertainty about the world, the future.
In the afternoon, I walked down to the 72nd St. pier on the Hudson just to watch, with my mouth open, with what must have been hundreds of others.
For several weeks, it seemed, you couldn’t think too long about anything before coming back to this. Just a few days after was Rosh Hashanah; I took a bus to my first High Holiday pulpit as a cantorial student, in Old Bridge, New Jersey. There was still smoke coming off the pile.
I have to recall the words intoned by Rabbi Bill Lebeau, then the dean of the Rabbinical School, at morning minyan at JTS the day after, Wednesday, 9/12/01. This is from the psalm that is customarily recited on Wednesday mornings:
עַד-מָתַי רְשָׁעִים יְהוָה: עַד-מָתַי, רְשָׁעִים יַעֲלֹזוּ
Ad matai resha’im Adonai, at matai resha’im ya’alozu.
How long, Adonai, how long shall the wicked exult? (Psalm 94:3)
Just a month ago, we marked Tish'ah Be'Av, the day we recall the destruction (twice) of the Temple in Jerusalem nearly 2000 years ago; the ascent from mourning to rejoicing at Rosh Hashanah, the New Year, takes seven short weeks. This is a healing process that the Jewish calendar forces us into every year. As Jews we are still fundamentally incomplete, two millennia after this loss.
What's ten years?