Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering and Forgetting

Today I am remembering that ten years ago this morning, I was sitting at the front desk of the preschool where I worked.  It was a beautiful, sunny September morning.  It was my father’s 63rd birthday. Teachers had just lead in preschoolers by the hand from the busses.  Belongings had just been stowed, and hello songs were being sung.  I was six months pregnant with my second child, a girl, and I was wearing a while maternity shirt and jeans.  My two year old son was home with my husband, later to go to my parents’ house when my husband went off to work.  Sometime in the mid morning, the school psychologist walked in and said that a plane had hit one of the twin towers.  At first, I thought, ‘he’s kind of an asshole - is that even right?’ But then one or two other people came in and said that it was.  ‘Weird accident,’ I thought.
News dribbled in and within a short time, we heard about the second plane.  How could there be two accidents like this?  I had a radio, so I turned it on to see if I could hear the news.  It quickly became very clear.  We were under attack.  We are at war, I thought.  I am pregnant, and I have a toddler, and we are at war.  And they hit the city.  My city.  I don’t live in the city, but I had visited often enough in my teens and my twenties… even taken a class there one summer.  When returning home from a vacation in Spain some years before that, I remembered seeing that beloved skyline as we flew into Kennedy airport and I felt like I was at home already.  I’ve been there, I thought, I know people.  In those moments and hours, the dichotomy of the world struck me hard… the preschoolers worried about starting school, learning to use crayons and hang up their backpacks, my own son, talking and walking but with so many questions about so many things, and then this – strangers from the other side of the globe attacking us with our own planes because…? 
People I knew were safe, thank God, but so many others were not.  People who were just as loved as the people I cared about.  I wanted to go home, and hug my child – hide under the covers and wake up and hear that this was all just a dream.  Everything, I thought, everything is going to change.
It has changed.  And yet, it has not.  In those days and weeks after that day, the collective unconscious was a tangible thing – caring, thoughtful, united.  We formed a circle of wagons, protective of each other.  We listened.  We were respectful.  We could see across the divide of semantic differences to the common ground that united us.  I believe that is the part we should never forget.  We should never forget the heroism that day of the people whose stories became known, as well as the ones whose stories are known only to God.  We should never, ever forget them.  I remember before 9/11, a teacher asking the class to define what hero was.  They could not.  Of course, this was before September 11, 2001.  Of course there were heroes before that day – from other times and places, but kids could not remember them, or could not relate.  And so we say, ‘Always Remember.’
For me, I am not concerned with the remembering; I know we’ll remember.  There are certain hurts that need to be remembered for the lessons we’ve learned from them.  What worries me is the forgetting, and mostly, with regard to our individual lives.    Can we let go of the small things that don’t need remembering?  Forgetting, i.e., ‘time heals all wounds.’  Can we unpack and leave behind a small piece of emotional luggage here and there?  Can we forget the pain and remember the joy? Can we forget what divides us, and remember what brings us together?

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