Marianne Doe, a high school English teacher in Middlebury, Vt., knows many of the families who have lost sons in the war. Two or three of her students' parents left New York City after 9/11 to seek refuge in rural Vermont.
Now she has been touched personally. Her daughter's brother-in-law will leave for his tour of duty in Iraq in October.
"We think that if we wave our flags higher, we will heal as a nation," said Doe. "But it's the damn flag and dollar-bill waving" that has fueled the anti-American sentiment.
"We are luring these kids to war to restore dignity to our country after being attacked, but we don't address why we were attacked," she said.
In the minds of many Americans, the war in Iraq has been irrevocably linked to 9/11.
Grace Christ, a Columbia University social worker who has counseled the families of fallen fighters, agrees that 9/11 has been exploited by politicians.
The war and other tragedies like Hurricane Katrina make healing more complicated, she said. "Each one of these reverberates and reminds of the other," said Christ.
"Every disaster struggles with this after five years," she said. "How do we deal with the variation in how people want to honor it?"
Grief on a grand scale never follows the usual patterns of recovery, and individuals deal differently with the pain. Though most people are adaptive, according to Christ, others are "immobilized."
"Some want to get up and get on with it," said Christ. "They say, 'Aren't you over it yet?'"
Eventually grief subsides, but it "it never goes away," said Grace.
The national grief also wanes, like the misdirected mail that arrives at Ground Zero -- probably, according to the post office, because companies haven't updated their mailing lists.
Or perhaps, because Americans still cannot forget.