Let's not get back to normal. The commemoration has not been properly done until we have honored the profound effect that last year's national tragedy had on society during the aftermath of the attack.
What do you mean, you don't remember that part? That you remember the pain and have sustained the patriotism, and what more could there be?
Miss Manners is distraught. You promised at the time that you would never forget. You declared that the world had changed forever, and you were changing your life to go with it. And it wasn't just the loss of security to which you were referring, but the gain in civility.
A year ago, the terrorism attack unexpectedly exploded the belief that Americans are terminally selfish and rude. Nobody had believed this assessment more fervently than Americans themselves, although naturally it was not themselves they meant.
Deploring the rudeness of other Americans (and developing fiendishly rude punishments for them) was the national sport. It seemed to be everyone out for himself or herself. A unit of more than one person was called The Dysfunctional Family.
Then, disaster hit, and everything changed in an instant.
Relatives turned out to be deeply devoted to one another. Not only were those missing and killed the subject of intense emotion, but families who were far from danger started checking in with one another and expressing their appreciation. Those whom cynicism had made wary of forming new families wanted to get married.
Friends who had drifted apart or who had become estranged got back in touch and resolved their quarrels. The emotional content had come to seem more important than whether they still had matching interests (and perhaps incomes).
Strangers tried to make themselves useful to one another. There were massive efforts to be compassionate to those in need and considerate of those whom they had been shoving aside.
The techniques of tact were quickly learned: that "being in a hurry" is no justification for failing to realize that others could have equal or greater claims to urgency. Petty concerns that may seem important do not matter all that much. That workers who put themselves into danger to help others are even more heroic than famous athletes and singers. That funerals are obligatory occasions of solemn and formal dignity, not optional parties where the guest of honor happens to be missing. That bereavement is a tragic fact of life, not a problem that can be overcome in stages, and that, therefore, the word "closure" should be jettisoned.
So, despite the horrendous circumstances, society became strangely pleasant. The worse the situation, the more inspiring humanity became.
For all her scolding over the years, Miss Manners already knew that Americans had all this in them. It is demonstrated every time there is a large scale disaster. Whenever there is an earthquake, famine, war, plague, hurricane or flood, Americans rush to help -- not just in their own towns, or even just in their own country, but wherever it happens.
And they always seem to come away with that exhilarating feeling of solidarity that comes with working for the common good, rather than the comparatively paltry satisfaction of merely making their own way, heedless of the welfare of others.
Then, for most people, the feeling passes, and it is back to business as usual.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Please settle an old, and friendly, cork coaster argument among members of my bridge club. I believe a coaster should be used cork-side up. My friends, all seven of them, believe the cork side should be down with the slippery picture-side up.
As silly as this sounds, I would like to go to bridge with proof from you that I am correct. But am I? Thanks for your answer, even if I'm wrong.
GENTLE READER: You're welcome. You're wrong.