I have always prided myself for having a superb memory. Always. It hardly ever fails me, except–of course–when I’m taking a test and need the exact formula that I happen to have forgotten at the time. There is one other case in which it malfunctions: I remember almost nothing of 9/11.
There are always those cliché moments in life when an adult will say: “You are going to remember this moment for the rest of your life; where you were, what you were doing, how you felt. This is going to change your life forever.”
VE Day, VJ Day, the assassinations of Kennedy and MLK, the moon landing, September 11, 2001. Our lives are dotted with unforgettable events, the kinds of things that you see in textbooks as landmarks of history. To be a part of them is to be a part of what makes the world what it has grown to be.
But if that is true, then it appears to be that an integral part of my life is missing.
In truth, I struggle to feel anything when it comes to the subject of 9/11. I feel remorse for those who lost loved ones, and I am saddened by the loss of nearly 3,000 lives, but there is an immense disconnect, a giant chasm between me and that day.
I was six and had just started the second grade. There is a faint memory of driving in the car with my mother, knowing that she was worried and in almost constant contact with my grandmother in Queens, a 45-minute subway ride from the World Trade Center.
Other than that, my mind is a blank. I have been told in later years that my grandfather had been in the Financial District at the time. Looking out the window, he saw fluttering papers and thought that someone had decided to throw a parade. He was forced to walk over the Brooklyn Bridge in order to get home safely. I have never asked him to tell me personally.
Why? Why is it that I haven’t been more curious? And, in some ways more importantly, why can I remember almost nothing?
Every time that I visit New York, I take either the E or the F train into the city. The E’s last stop is Chambers Street – World Trade Center. World Trade Center. I hear that name on a regular basis, so much so that I fear that I have been desensitized. I fear that I will never be curious.
I have no reminders, no losses, no hurts. 9/11, for me, is a date. It is some far away and very important event that I did not experience.
I struggle with the gap in my memory, especially as so much of America is now coming together to commemorate the 10 year anniversary. So many images, so many people, so many lives that have been changed forever.
But has mine been changed? Is it possible to be so affected by something that I don’t even remember? For many, 9/11 reverberates more harshly in their minds than almost any other event that has occurred in the 21st century so far. It is, as well, one of the most tragic for the American people.
And yet, it has been the source for much inspiration. I hear more of the heroes of 9/11 than I do of the heroes of those serving in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, even now after so much time has passed.
For 10 years I have grown up under a shadow of an event that I still have yet to understand.
Do I even want to remember?
In truth, I have no idea. I regret not being able to tell you, the reader, that 9/11 has affected me in a way that has inspired me to do something great, as it has done for many people.
What I do not regret is being able to observe how it has affected others. I do not regret being able to see America come together to celebrate heroes that represent the best of us and mourn the loss of many a soul who never had the chance to show that heroism.
As we move forward, the world will never forget that 9/11 happened. Pictures, videos, stories, they all ring true. But as younger generations grow older, it will become harder and harder to commemorate the date.
It is our job, therefore, to preserve as much as we can of the emotions and connections that 9/11 has coaxed from our society. Without those memories, 9/11 grows farther and farther away from us, cementing itself in our minds as a distant, detached event.
I am only the start of what I fear may be a losing battle of terrible magnitude.