Saturday, September 10, 2011

Do I Want to Remember 9/11?

The cover of New York magazine reads "9/11 One Day, Ten Years" superimposed over an image of smoke from the World Trade Center after the Towers were struck.

The ladies of The View trotted out former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani to thank him for his leadership in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. Almost every magazine cover and newscast is asking us to remember.

The NYC Department of Education has developed a series of lesson plans for K-12 students to learn what took place that day and teachers are strongly encouraged (if not required) to delve into the events surrounding 9/11.

All of this media bombardment and emphasis placed on the tenth anniversary is difficult to ignore.  But, do I want to remember 9/11?

To remember is to relive.  To remember is to feel the shock, fear and pain all over again.  For those of us who live and/or work in New York City remembering is quite a different thing than it is for those who were not directly impacted by the events of the day.  It is not part of history, it is our lives.  It is our personal loss.

To remember means thinking back to when I first heard that a plane hit the World Trade Center.  I was teaching preschool and a parent ran in with tears in her eyes stating that city was under attack.  She had heard that the Empire State Building was also hit.  Remembering is seeing the smoke rise from outside our classroom window and wondering what was going on. Do I need to contact the parents? Should I go on with the day as planned? What to do?

To remember is to feel that unsettling chill of calling my friend Adriana ("A.D.") who worked at Two World Trade Center on the 96th Floor, after I finally made it home to New Jersey late that evening, and having her young niece tell me "A.D. is still at work" in a little voice whose innocence was especially cutting against the horror of the day.

To remember that day, a day of death and loss, is too painful.

I would rather remember the life of my friend A.D. and not be forced to relive the circumstances of her death.

I want to remember how she would tease me for kicking up my leg when I had an especially dramatic moment, how she danced with me in her sister Jeanette's apartment, how she sang "Proud Mary" at my Halloween party dressed as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, how she posed near the Christmas tree opening presents with her "boyfriend" Ed, how she loved her family and laughed easily.

The last time I was on the phone with her I didn't even speak - I sang.  Her sister Maria handed me the phone to sing the chorus of Madonna's "Don't Tell Me".  I did and gave the phone back to Maria.

If I can't remember these happy, silly things then I certainly don't want to remember 9/11.  But how can I forget?  How can any of us forget?  Do we really need to be told to remember?


Angella Lister said...

So poignant, Gary. Every year this day comes up differently for me. This year I am thinking a lot about how young my children were when they went through the attacks. I remember keenly their confusion. It was the day all innocence was ripped away. Thank you for this heartfelt post.

Steve Reed said...

You don't need to be told to remember. But if media outlets failed to mark the anniversary of the attacks they'd subject to anger from readers and viewers. I remember when I was a young reporter we had to do a story about Pearl Harbor every single year on Dec. 7, and if we didn't do enough of a story, the vets called and yelled at us. Many people profess to be fatigued by these remembrances, but they're culturally important, not just to survivors but to people like you and me who were affected in different ways.

So sorry to hear about Adriana. I was very lucky not to lose anyone I knew personally, though I had a friend who worked on the 90th floor of the North Tower who was on his way into the building when the first plane hit. He turned right around and began walking home.

Lorenzo — Alchemist's Pillow said...

Thanks, Gary, I needed that. You eloquently and poignantly voice some of the questions many ask ourselves today and so many other days as well. A lovely and loving tribute to Adrianna and your friendship.

Gary said...

Angella - This anniversay seems to have affected me much more than those in the past. I think perhaps because of the ten year anniversary focus. I wasn't sure what to do with my feelings and thought perhaps writing them would be healing. I called my dear friend Maria to tell her I was thinking of writing a 9/11 post and writing about her sister Adriana. She was so supportive and gave her blessing. (I didn't want to write about it and take her by surprise, you know?) It was a day all innocence was ripped away in so many ways.

You are of course right Steve. I can see your point and I agree. I guess this is also so jumbled up because it is ongoing - I don't feel totally safe in NYC and I think in a way that politically speaking, I am not supposed too. I feel like some pawn stuck in a game of exploitation of 9/11 and the aftermath. I don't even know if that makes any sense.

Lorenzo - It is always a wonder to realize that when you speak (write) from the heart it connects with others. And it's nice to know that I am not alone in these thoughts. Glad to see you back to blogging!

Barbara said...

I have a hard time dealing head-on with all sorts of atrocities -- the Holocaust, genocide in Rwanda, roadside explosions in Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the attacks of 9/11. All of these acts of violence against humanity were (are) completely unnecessary and even worse because they were premeditated.

Just as we need to teach children what happened in the Holocaust, we must teach them what happened on 9/11. No one can remain innocent, lest we forget, as painful as those memories are and will always be for those of us who lived through it.

Anonymous said...

I worked on remembering and on my own terms without paying much attention to the media. It was a moment of being connected globally but also on a more human, basic level. I had many second degree connections and also remember living in Manhattan in 1993 during the FIRST WTC bombing in the basement. Memories upon memories.

Pauline said...

I'm glad you feel the same way. There aren't many who don't fall in with the media blitz. I was not in NYC but I did lose an old friend; I'm sorry you did, too. And I did watch the planes hit (over and over and over). Odd how we tend to commemorate the awful but let the best of our times languish in the archives.

Mona said...

How can one forget? Even in my country, we are still taught about important fateful events in the children history class


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