This may not be a year you want to reflect much on 9/11; that’s understandable. That’s been me on a bunch of 9/11s. In which case: check back here tomorrow. But I haven’t had an active blog in years, and I do want to reflect this year. So, this.
In the Early Days of Blogging™, one meme was that to know a blogger, you should start by seeing what they wrote on or immediately following 9/11/01. On this blog, it was my ninth post: “Two eggs.” It didn’t mean anything to anyone except me, which was fine, because no one but me was reading this blog in 2001.
Last Friday I had three old friends over to our apartment for after-dinner drinks. We’d dined in Chinatown and walked home to my apartment on the South Street Seaport underneath the Towers of Light, which are always tested for a few hours on a few nights prior to their 9/11 appearance. And whether that was the reason or not, conversation turned to 9/11. All four of us were in the New York area that day, and three of us had managed to meet up at Lucy’s bar on Avenue A. Three of us remembered that. From there, memory turned hazy. Two of those three of us recalled having left Lucy’s for a dinner at a restaurant that I think was on East 10th Street. Neither of the two of us who remembered that could recall the restaurant’s name, or agree on the specifics of the dinner, or how the night ended after that.
Thirteen years after 9/11, memory fades. I took photos that terrible morning, and for five years every year after, I took the same walk I did on 9/11/01, from my apartment on the Lower East Side down to City Hall. On that fifth year anniversary, I chronicled my repeating those steps. Those memories are cast in stone. But last Friday night, later, it occurred to me to look up 9/11/01 in my journal, which I kept on the pages of a non-digital handwritten journal, to revive my own memories of the day. (I never read my old journals; maybe I will some day, but pulling that era’s journal off the shelf even for a specific purpose felt monumental, and scary.)
What I found were ideas and feelings, not actual events. I was struck by the truth that, in a journal I frequently used to record the facts of my life, I’d recorded none from that week. I wonder if I thought I’d never forget; certainly, that was the clarion call and understanding of us all at the time, and now still.
On 9/11/03, I did blog about that day, and I recollected a sign I’d seen in Union Square a year earlier: “We smelled it. Felt it. Saw it. We need more time.” I know what that means, and why it was right. But looking back now, I’m struck by how memory fades. Never forget, yes. But how?