I don’t know what came over me today. Maybe it was the talking heads obsessively discussing 9-11 and the ten year anniversary. Maybe it was the books reliving 9-11 in my book review newsletter this morning. I don’t know. I do know I wasn’t planning on writing about 9-11 … so why am I writing about 9-11?
There’s the old adage: if we don’t remember history, history is bound to repeat itself. I don’t think anything like 9-11 is soon in coming (although I’m sure the terrorists disagree). I don’t want to obsess over the tragedy and talk about it all weekend long. I’m not overly emotive about the whole thing, yet this morning, something came over me.
Every generation has a question:
Where were you when JFK was assassinated?
Where were you when John Lennon was shot?
Where were you when they killed Martin Luther King, Jr.?
Obviously, for my generation, it is and always will be: Where were you when the Two Towers fell?
I was a sophomore at Ohio University, and I was asleep. I don’t know why nobody called me to say, “Hey, turn on your TV; something horrible is happening.” I made coffee. I showered. I headed to theater class. No one showed up, of course; my classmates were desperately calling actor friends in New York to make sure everyone was okay, and I stood there, stunned, repeating, “What happened? It couldn’t have happened. I don’t understand how this happened.”
And I didn’t. Nobody understood how it happened. Now, it feels like a bad movie, because nothing that terrible could have happened in real life. It feels like the memory of a night of drinking—fuzzy, incoherent, sickening. And we did drink, all day, back in 2001. Straight whiskey. I smoked about a dozen Marlboro Reds on my friend’s bed as we watched TV, obsessively, until we drank so much we couldn’t feel anymore.
That was ten years ago. I understand why we’re doing all the TV specials. Ten is a nice, round number. It’s good to remember history; it’s better to remember heroes. It’s also important to remember the people who were lost.
Will I watch the 9-11 specials this weekend? No. I don’t want to see the pictures again. The pictures will be burned into my brain for the rest of my life. I think that’s true of most Americans. Do I still get sick if I think about that day, ten years ago? Yes. Absolutely.
So I didn’t plan to write about 9-11, but something came over me today. I guess I just felt the need to remind myself that ten years ago, we all had a very bad day. Like most bad days, it has faded into memory. But the memory of 9-11 is powerful. It is a lingering freeze frame that echoes through the hearts and minds of my generation. God willing, maybe the next generation will never have to ask the question, “Where were you when …?”