The Power of Remembering

This week always makes me sad. My eyes fill with tears at the mere sight of the American flag. Fear feels like a long-lost companion anytime I hear a jet plane overhead. It’s hard to believe it’s been 12 years, yet it still feels so raw.

Of course, I’m talking about September 11, 2001.

I watched a segment on 60 Minutes the other night entitled “Curating Memories of Terror and Tragedy” about the 9/11 Memorial Museum that is being built on Ground Zero in New York City. There were several ideas in that story centered around the power of remembering that struck me.

First was the notion of needing a museum to help people remember September 11. At fist I was perplexed. Why do we need a museum to remember that fateful day? I can recall the events so vividly it my mind. Event today, seeing the images of the planes crashing into the World Trade Center towers makes me cry more  than ever before.

But the 60 Minutes guests went on to explain that so many kids and the younger generation will not have a first-hand recollection of that day. They will read about 9/11 through history books and will visit museums to visually study the details of that day. This notion of remembrance and continuing to teach a new generation is similar to why it’s critical to continue telling the stories of the Holocaust – so we never forget.

Second, it’s easy to think perhaps you are not a 9/11 victim if you were not physically present at any of the terror attack sites or know of someone who lost their life that day. But, in reality, we are ALL victims of the horror of September 11. Every one of us lost something that day and our lives have been forever changed. Even young children – and those that have not yet been born – will never know the ease of life that existed before that fateful day.

Finally, I have such deep respect for the families of the victims who are sharing in the museum photos and stories of their loved ones who died that day. The families are not letting the horrible memories and tragedy of that day dictate how they remember those that died. In fact, the entire museum’s content is in that vein. There will be photos of the first responders running bravely into the World Trade Center, and replaying of the final voice mail messages from flight attendants on those planes. As much as those images and the voice mail message made me cry, I realized those things are not being presented to make me sad. They are being offered so we remember the good; the people who died that day as heroes. Those relics of history are critical so the 9/11 stories live on and we not forget.

While the act of remembering a tragedy is not a pleasant experience, it can also be a great source of healing. And perhaps even more importantly, it helps us to not forget. And only through remembering will we keep history alive for ourselves, our children, and for those that cannot be here today to tell their story.

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