Thursday, September 11, 2008

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 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 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.


Becky Welch said...

So true. I was teaching 3rd graders when it happened. We will always remember.

Adrienne said...

Very true. I was pregnant with Aj.

~gkw said...

On my way to work, Rick and Bubba on the radio, they started talking about what was going on. No one worked that day, our eyes were glued to a television in the front offices.

I was schedule to fly out to Chicago the next day, it was over a week before I went.

The events of that day, the candle light services that week, the feelings of sadness and anger; they'll always be with me...

Ms.L said...

Good Post:)

My mother phoned to wake me up,screaming at us to turn on the
tv,which we sat in front of for days.
When Dur went to work,he said it was so creepy because there was NO air traffic(In Canada,we were on the west coast) but then out of now where,he watched two fighter jets escort a plane into the airport..I guess they left before they shut down the skies...
I was depressed for months after..

Lynilu said...

I was planning a post on this, too, but I'm really having trouble getting it finished. :(

I was home, just leaving for work, reaching to turn the TV off when the first news bulletin came on, and I couldn't move my feet until after the second hit was caught live.

I'll never forget those minutes.

Cheryl Wray said...

Hey Everyone--Isn't it amazing how we all have such vivid memories of that day? Thanks for sharing yours with me too!

hippochick said...


What a wonderful and loving tribute to our memories of "fateful" days. My first thought that day was of my children in what I considered dangerous places, Chicago and Las Vegas. My second was for those trapped in burning buildings. I remember watching in horror as the towers collapsed.

Until that day I thought the Kennedy assassination would be the most memorable tragedy in my history. Oh that I had been correct.

~hippo hugs~


Leah said...

I, like Gary was listening to Rick and Bubba on my drive in to work. I remember coming in the office and telling my office mates that we should turn on a tv.

And the Shuttle.. I remember it like it was yesterday. 4th Grade, watching Charlotte's Web. Our teacher came bursting in the classroom, but the movie off and said something horrible had happened and we were going to turn on the news.

hippochick said...

Hey Cheryl,

Here's a P.S. I love the new look of your page.


Cheryl Wray said...

Pam--I can't imagine how scary it was for all parents of adult children living in big cities.I would have been so scared. I understand what you mean...about hating that some other horrible event overshadowed even JFK's. assassination. So sad.

Leah--I also was remembering to the radio on the way to school.I think that's how a lot of people first heard it.

Pam again--THANKS!! :-) (I was ready for a different look.)

Marjolein said...

Great post Cheryl! I of course was still in Holland at that time, but I remember it as if it was yesterday! My daughter running in from being at a friends... "mom, turn on the tv..something terrible has happened in America!"....tears... just could not believe this... so heart broken for all the people that lost someone that day and the weeks after.
Here, in Canada, today is remembered at schools, because the planes were seen from our part of Canada....

Thanks for your wonderful words about all your memories.. it's good to be reminded of those things sometimes!

Laura said...

Great post, Cheryl!

Gin said...

We will never forget that day.

Cheryl, this was a great post.


Phats said...

It was an awful day. I had just started teaching and talk about weird, we were told by the principal before anyone told the students what was going on. Prayers still with those family members

Auburn Kat said...

It truly is a day that I will never forget. I usually call my aunt on 9/11...she was there at her office and had to run from the towers...I am so thankful that it wasn't her time.

Linda said...

I remember being in the bathroom and blow drying my hair, when my ex husband came in and told me to come look at the tv...he was watching the news. I was horrified, but it really was one of those, is this real, no it can't be real moments. Like you, like America, I cried for weeks, the sadness will always be there, but the important thing, is that we will honor our fallen because we will remember. A friend of mine recently passed and my best friend gave me a card that said "Nothing that is truly loved, is ever really lost."

I like to believe that. Thanks for the awesome post.

Kingcover said...

I can't imagine what it must be like for the 24 families whom still have no remains to bury because they have never been found because they were probably so ionised (for want of a better word). The other families at least have a grave or a place to go visit .... those families don't even have that to hold on to. So very sad :-(

Monogram Queen said...

Yes 9/11 and Challenger are both defining moments for me too. I don't remember Watergate though.. but I DO (at least I think I do) remember President Johnson's funeral on TV.