September 11, 2008

Seven years ago, I was in 11th grade sitting in Mr. Posnanski’s 3rd period precalculus class when another teacher popped his head in the door to say that we should go to the library to watch TV because a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center.  For the rest of the day and week, in all of my classes, we spent a lot of time listening to the radio or watching the news, and talking about the attacks on the twin towers.  I spent a lot of time writing – not necessarily how I felt, but more so what I had been hearing on the news and what we were doing in school. 

Even though I grew up on Long Island, until September 11, 2001, I did not know much about the twin towers or the World Trade Center.  Due to my lack of knowledge, it seemed like the best thing I could do would be to record my surroundings.  It’s not a literary work of the century, but at least I’ll have decades from now. 

Personally, my life was not altered by September 11.  However, my extended family lost a member. My cousin’s cousin, Kristen Montanero, worked in one of the twin towers.  We never heard from her.  We attended her memorial service in the winter of 2002.  She remains among the missing.  I especially think of her today.

Every anniversary of September 11 has been different.  Sadly, it seems as though every anniversary places less and less emphasis on itself, the day, and the people lost.  Of course, I am also moving geographically further from New York every few years (by chance.)  I thought that working on an Army base, there would at least be a little ceremony, but no one mentioned anything all day.  Maybe the soldiers had something, but civilian contractors did not hear a word.  My sister who attends college in Pennsylvania emailed me to tell me that no one mentioned September 11th there either.  We both would up searching the internet to find that Point Lookout had a memorial service on the beach.  We wanted to go. 

Again, it’s not that September 11 changed my life forever, at least directly, but shouldn’t a day like this deserve some attention? What happened to the unified country and patriotism and never forget?  Just like we should remember soldiers on Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day and December 7th for Pearl Harbor, shouldn’t we give remembrance to today, a day marked “Patriot Day” on calendars? Granted, American society is fickle, but it seems to me that September 11th will be one of those days where you should remember where you were so someday you can tell your children and grandchildren of the day Americans were attacked on our own soil, but how we all came together to remember that we were indeed Americans. 

Forget politics, opinions, and side agendas: September 11th is about remembering people, honoring the heroes.  At least offering a moment of silence like we do for the Oklahoma City bombing, would show respect and remembrance.  It’s a date in history that Americans should never forget.

On the note of remembrance, decades from now, oral history is probably going to play a role in recording the events to share with that generation what happened.  Fortunately, some institutions have already begun the efforts.  (See Columbia’s Oral History Program.)  But, traumatic experiences affect memories and different instances of oral history will recall various stories.  Oral history isn’t always about interviewing elders – it’s anyone who experienced an important part of history and has a story to tell.

September 11, 2008: I’m in the oral history field.  I suppose it’s the appropriate choice for me as I’m a proponent of the ideas: remember the fallen, bless the heroes. And never forget, because people and their history deserve to be remembered. 

American Flag in Point Lookout

American Flag in Point Lookout