Round number or multiples-of-five anniversaries always seem to matter more in the public mind, and so next year’s observance of the 9/11 massacre will be a heavier thing.

I was thinking this morning about Bill Maher’s remark about the perpetrators not being cowards. He said this in the wrong way and certainly way too soon after the disaster itself. But even at the time I was never able to conclude with absolute certainty that he was dead wrong.

Evil, monstrous, satanic, fanatical, dastardly, sickening…all of these terms certainly apply to the people who delivered the horror. But speaking as a relative coward in terms of my own physical safety, as someone who hasn’t been in a decent fistfight since I was 12 or 13, as someone who shudders at the idea of ending it all or facing the Big Sleep prematurely, I find it difficult to apply the term “cowards.” Because what they did, loathsome and fiendish and demonic as it was, required a certain amount of terrible sand.