Tuesday, September 11, 2012

What We Remember

I opened Facebook today and at least half of my news feed started with "11 years ago today..." Almost all of those status updates are from people who were in college or school in New York 11 years ago today. There are also a handful of simple "I'll never forget" status updates, mostly from people who weren't here at the time. It may be a fluke limited to my Facebook friends, but it made me wonder what the difference is between our experiences.

I imagine that the "never forget" refrain is a given for those of us who were in New York when it happened and are still here now, because there is no way to forget. We remember it all the time: when we're in the Financial District or anywhere nearby, when we're in any part of the city with a clear view of the Freedom Tower, when we talk about the origin of the Tribeca Film Festival or the River to River Festival or a similar event...

But today, we remember the specifics.

Those "11 years ago today..." statuses talk about what class or period they were in when it happened or, for those who are older, what part of their commute they were on or what meeting they were getting ready for. Our memories are full of disruption, feeling disconnected, and a whole lot of waiting. Schools were on lockdown and you had to be signed out by a parent but it was hard to get in touch with your parents and all you could do was wait. If you made it out of school and weren't within walking distance, you were in for an incredibly long commute home as you noticed the rest of the city was also at a standstill... more waiting.

We remember relief when a classmate got through to his sister and found out she hadn't made it to the office yet. We remember the west wing of the cafeteria being closed off but still being able to see the smoke in the air. We remember our commute the next day and the gaping hole in the skyline. We remember how quiet and empty everything was the next day.

It's not that this day means more to us but the more time that passes, the more I notice that it definitely means something different. At some point today, when we close our eyes, we'll see or hear or smell something in this city so vividly that we'll feel 11 years ago is today. "Never forget" seems a waste of words after that.

1 comment:

Kekla Magoon said...

My Facebook looked similar on Tuesday.

It's interesting though, that while this is a defining moment in the collective memory of people your age and mine, I work with a lot of teens now and they are mostly too young to remember 9/11. At least, they don't remember it as having an impact on their own lives.

I guess it just reminds me that life continues, and what is part of our collective memory and consciousness evolves over time.

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