I’m going to break my own rule of not writing too personally in this post, but only because 9/11 is something which is difficult to remove from personal experience.
Back in 2001, I was a five-year-old staying at a friend’s house while my parents went out for the day. My only memory of 9/11, which has surely been warped by the many times I’ve come back to it, is of a woman standing in front of the TV watching the news. Now, I wanted to be watching cartoons, but I was either too embarrassed to ask outright or too tactful to distract this woman from the TV, so I asked, “Is this going to be on all day?” She answered affirmatively. After a while, she asked if I wanted to watch something else. I said yes, and spend the rest of 9/11/2001 watching “Rocket Power” on Nickelodeon. I don’t know if you remember 9/11, but it seems I was just old enough to remember my general obliviousness of the tragedy.
What a difference there was in the recollections of the Air Force service member who spoke at the 9/11 service on Friday! He recollected the admiration and inspiration found in the Marines who evacuated the Pentagon day care center where his children were being watched. Hearing his story, I was able to empathize with all those people who actually remembered their emotional state on that day. I started to rewrite my memory of what happened on September 11th, retroactively creating a setting for my little 5-year-old self.
We are, in large part, the sum of the choices we’ve made, but within that framework, there’s lot’s of wiggle room. We write, rewrite, invert, revert, vacillate, decimate, magnify, minimize, repress, suppress, obsess – changing our stories by moving around those building blocks of memory. It is a rare occasion that some one else has the chance to alter one of those blocks, because we focus so much on our own perspective. So be aware of those moments! Hold onto those changes that are good; be critical of how you define good changes, and keep writing the story, because sharing it with other people will change their stories.