“Do you remember … ?”
Most often, it’s asked when someone needs information that will help in their everyday activities:
“Do you remember …
… where you put the car keys?”
… the title of that book we were talking about yesterday?”
… what day Charlie and Ann said they’re available for dinner?”
… the name of the plumber that replaced the neighbor’s sump pump?”
Other times, it’s a conversation starter, or simply asked out of curiosity when brought up about a major event that had an impact on a community or the world, often relating to the death of a prominent public figure:
“Do you remember …
… where you were when JFK was shot?”
… how you heard the news about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.?”
… who told you about Lady Diana?”
… what went through your mind when Katrina made landfall?”
Today is a “Do you remember …” day, and since 2001, it always will be, often asked as, “Do you remember where you were the morning of September 11, 2001?”
I do, of course I do. How could I not? And if you’re 25 or older, you do to. Of course, we do. We remember where we were, what we were doing, the day of the week (Tuesday) and the weather.
We remember where our families were at the time four planes crashed in three different locations across a span of the eastern United States. And we remember (at least I do) being confused, then scared, then shocked, then angry, then tremendously sad.
Then, scared again.
I remember thinking, “How could this have happened?” followed by (pardon the language), “What the fuck?” followed by “What now?”
I remember thinking “What do I do now?” I mean, I didn’t live near these tragedies, so I wasn’t immediately impacted, but I do remember spending the rest of that morning obsessively looking up to the sky hoping I didn’t see airplanes. I know that sounds childish, but there was nothing else for someone like me to do at that point in time, except absorb – or try to absorb – what had happened, and what would happen in the days, weeks, months and years following.
And I did. I listened to the news on the radio as I drove that day, and I watched everything I could on television; not out of prurient curiosity, but to try to understand what had happened, how it happened, why it happened, and maybe in some way, associate with those who had been directly impacted due to their proximity to New York, Washington, D.C. and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, or their relationship to the victims or emergency personnel involved.
I remember talking to Joanie and wondering if I should come home from work that day, or if we should pull Kate out of school. (She had just started kindergarten the week before.) I remember everywhere I went, people had TVs and radios tuned to the news. Most of the time, they weren’t speaking, just watching and listening in shock, living the nightmare from a distance.
I remember wondering if my Uncle Jim and Aunt Judith – who lived and still live in Manhattan – were OK. Then, I remember “OK” being a fluid state of being as time passed. At first, it meant “alive.” Then, as the trauma set in for people around the disasters (and their families and friends), it meant something very, very different. And for many, they’d never be “OK” again.
I remember feeling fortunate that nothing happened to or near us. Then, I remember feeling guilty about that.
It’s been 22 years since September 11, 2001, and like so many things, time and distance have smoothed out the seas of anger, grief, depression and confusion. Unfortunately, two decades later, the “Do you remember …” that relates to this date has become small talk for some; just another conversation starter.
I’ll ask all of us to not let that happen because it trivializes its impact, and in my mind, disrespects those who went through it … and those who didn’t make it. (Just my two cents.)
I will never claim to have suffered the way those close to the disasters did: victims, family members, co-workers, friends, or emergency personnel. I don’t deserve to. But I do hurt for them and for what and who they lost.
And to all those who did lose loved ones on that day (and in the coming months and years), please know this. I remember, and I won’t ever forget. I won’t ever forget the tragedy of it all, the suffering, the heroism and the sheer strength and determination of people to push through and rebuild.
Yes, I remember. Of course I do.
© 2023 David R. Haznaw