A Day in September

Posted on 10 September 2009

It’s that time of year again. The kids are back in school, the crowds have largely headed back to the city and the temperatures are cooling down a bit. HarborFest is once again upon us, and, as usual, this weekend promises to be full of food and fun for all, young and old alike.

But there’s another emotion to HarborFest that can be found lying just under the surface — that sense of underlying sadness of something lost that is inexorably linked to this time of year.

Just as we will never again be able to look at crystal clear blue skies in September in the same way again, so, too, will HarborFest always remind us in one way or another of that horrific day in 2001 when our lives forever changed. It was a day the unthinkable happened and we all grew wiser about the darker ways of the world. Emotions and memories may fade or change with time, but they’re always there. The psyche has a way of linking incongruent ideas like that. The second weekend in September – it’s hard to avoid.

But it’s very appropriate that our own Doris Gronlund has been selected as grand marshal for the HarborFest parade on Saturday. Many of us recall that in the days after the 9/11 attacks, there was much debate over whether or not the village should proceed with a festival in the face of such disaster. But it was Doris who insisted that HarborFest go on as planned. That nothing, not even this, should interfere with our time honored traditions. All the more poignant, of course, because Doris’ own daughter, Linda, died aboard the hijacked United Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania that day.

On that HarborFest weekend, we learned that even as we took part in the spirited activities that define small town life, we were still able to grieve and express our profound sense of loss, not only to Doris who personally suffered such tragedy, but to all those around us who weren’t sure what to do with the emotions. That’s how it should be. In times of trouble, getting together to share the experience, through laughter and tears is a cathartic experience.

It’s been eight years now, but 9/11 is still a difficult anniversary for many. So in addition to the whale boat races, walking tours and the lobsterbake, there are also opportunities to reflect on that fateful day back in 2001. On Friday, September 11, at 5 p.m. Cormaria Retreat House commemorates the 8th anniversary of the attack with a ceremony in a garden dedicated to Erica Van Acker, a Sag Harbor resident who died in the World Trade Center. And that evening, Bay Street Theatre will offer a staged reading of a play written just months after 9/11 called “The Guys” about a firefighter who must write eulogies for several of his men killed in the Trade Center and the writer who helps him get his words, and emotions, on paper.

Of course, we’re also expecting everyone to turn out to wave to Doris Gronlund as she passes by in Saturday’s parade at 9:30 a.m. And at the end of the day, those looking to quietly observe this anniversary can do no better than taking a solitary walk on Barcelona Neck in what, since Saturday, September 11, 2004, has been officially known as the Linda Gronlund Memorial Nature Preserve.

A perfect way to spend a September day.

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