The Things We Remember
Little things this morning made me pause.
I filled out a permission form this morning for McKenna, signing my name and then the date. As I wrote, McKenna looked at me and said, "It's been seven years."
After dropping off Delaney at school, I drove off for a sausage biscuit. The flags at McDonald's were at half-mast.
It's forever a part of our personal consciousness. And our collective consciousness as well.
The date is inexorably linked to the event. While time diminishes pain, I don't think it will ever diminish our understanding and memory of what it was.
Which made me think about the things we remember. You know...those events that occur and, in an instance, we can remember exactly where we were when the event happened.
Like September 11, 2001.
I was in the car, taking McKenna and Delaney to school (Scout wasn't around yet), when I heard the news on the radio. It seemed a strange interruption, kind of a weird "not sure what this really is yet/not sure it can really be happening" sort of moment.
And then in the hours, and the days, and the weeks following, I remember... crying until I really didn't think I could cry anymore, flags waving, smiling and talking to strangers, trying to explain it to a six-year-old, and reliving it again and again, and crying some more.
Time heals things, but memories remain strong. And that's a day--a moment--I'll never forget.
There are other moments from the "world stage" that I remember.
I was home from school sick the day the Challenger exploded; I remember sitting on my couch and staring at the television. I remember how the laughter of the children watching their teacher in space turned into horror and confusion.
I remember "where I was" when the Oklahoma City bombing took place (watching coverage of it in the journalism office on campus), when the United States bombed Libya (our principal announced it on the intercom while I was in Civics class, giving us something to talk about the rest of that period), when Clinton was inaugurated (I worked at my first real "job" and we stopped to watch it on tv, and I mostly remember Maya Angelou reading a poem), when the first night of the first Gulf War started (I sat at home, riveted in front of the television, listening to that journalist holed up in Baghdad underneath a table, capturing the sound of the bombs for all of us to hear).
I even remember Watergate...although I mostly remembered it for how it interrupted my afternoon television watching. Instead of The Brady Bunch, there was more hearings on the screen. To my child's mind, it just irritated me.
And my Mom has told me several times about "where she was" when President Kennedy was shot. A sophomore in high school, the school was excited about the President being so near by (Dallas was less than an hour away), and then devastated when they got the news. She said that people moved in slow motion, unbelieving in what had happened.
(But she's also told me about the excitement of the astronauts landing on the moon. About how exciting and invigorating it was for the nation!)
I guess that every generation has its moments. (Gary's grandmother recently told me about hearing that FDR had died; my grandfather told me about liberating a concentration camp.)
My generation's will indelibly be the Challenger explosion, and then...of course... it will be September 11, 2001.
Those sorts of memories define us as individuals, as we remember "where we were." And they define us as a society, as a people...as we realize that we have many connected memories, that we really are "together" in so many things, that our history and identity are forged from many of the same moments.
Today, yes, is a sad day. But it's something we can't forget.
It's as forever a part of us as a culture, and as a collective, and as a people, as the memories we have of our own wedding day or our first child's birth or the death of a parent.
It can't go away, even if we'd like it to. It's part of us...like so many things before.
And because of that, we must embrace it. For its sadness; for what it teaches us; for the best it brought out in us.