What’s your story?

October 27th, 2010 § 2 comments

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September 2001, NYC

I was speaking with the father of one of my childhood friends last night. He said something that stuck with me and I’ve been thinking about it all day. He made a comparison between 9/11 and the assassination of JFK, saying the experience of 9/11 for my generation is like the experience of JKF’s shocking death for his generation. I have heard this comparison more than once.

9/11 is bookmarked in our minds – its placement defining a clear before and after.

For me the memory of that day is a series of visual and aural unfoldings: hearing news of a plane hitting the first tower from the dance teacher in the room next door, watching the towers fall from a television in the elementary school library, panicking knowing my cousin worked in the World Financial Building, calling my sister and telling her to wait for me in her dorm near the Empire State Building, trying to figure out what to do with a room full of 4th graders while lower Manhattan smoldered and the school developed an emergency plan, walking with my sister across Manhattan to 1st Ave & 14st St., taking the L train one terrifying stop to Brooklyn, hearing helicopters all night long while my sister and I curled up in bed together, listening to the news on a 13 inch tv while static confetti danced on the screen, wondering if my roommate would ever come home from her job in Lower Manhattan, an overwhelming sadness soon joined by an overwhelming smell.

My friend’s father said something else last night too. He was speaking about writing his own psychology dissertation many years ago. One of his professors told him that all psychology is biography. I suppose any paper about human experience is biographical in nature. I’m writing my paper about memory, about how the personal transforms into the collective over time. So tell me, what’s your story? Where were you on 9/11?

I’d love to hear your story.

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§ 2 Responses to What’s your story?"

  • Carole Glatter Lax says:

    I do have vivid “where were you?…” memories though. I was working at Mt. Sinai hospital that day & my shift started at 7am. I was at the nurses’ station & one of the pediatrician’s walked in and said “Put on a television. I heard on the radio coming over that the WTC has been bombed!” Of course no one knew what was what at that moment, it was before the first tower even collapsed. There was a converted patient room that still had a TV near the nurses’ station & we all piled in there & put the TV on. By then they were saying that a plane had hit the Towers. I got your father on the phone & his work had heard by then & were piled into the lunchroom with the TV.

    While we were watching we actually saw the live footage of the plane hitting the second Tower. By then it was clear there was no “accident”. The Towers fell like a house of cards. I called your father again, “I can’t leave work – try to call the kids (you & your sister) & my cousin.

    When we found out the Pentagon had hit, I was panicked. Who knew what the totality of the situation was? My daughter was in Beis Yaakov. I figured if it was an all out Muslim attack Jewish schools were a likely target. I called Dad & told him to leave & get her immediately. (Which he did – He was the first parent there. The Rabbi was trying to decide whether to send the kids home – I think Dad helped him decide)

    The next time Dad & I talked, jet bombers were flying over New York & DC. There was a word Dad used that I can’t remember and neither can he, but he said “I never thought the Air Force would be flying over DC in our lifetime.” I can’t remember the word at the moment but it chilled me. (And remember Daddy & I were in school when they used to practice positioning for nuclear attack! This seemed more real)

    There was a Muslim secretary working on our unit. She commented to the effect that Western people really did not understand the psychology of people from the East. At that early date she had a lot to say about violence and long memories. She knew we were clueless.

    Obviously, I couldn’t leave work but Dad was home with our youngest and able to call you & your sister and eventually speak to my aunt who had heard from my cousin. So after that I felt at least personally better. We were all still obsessed at work. Every TV was on the news. People were volunteering to go help in NY & to give blood, etc., but there were very few people to actually help afterward. For those of us familiar with Holocaust literature, it soon became obvious that a lot of the ash falling all over Manhattan was the people.

    It was a few months after 9/11 when I found out about all the Rodins that were destroyed with the Towers. That also felt like a loss, like when the Pieta was attacked. Art is meant to endure the generations.

    It changed everyone’s perception of the world we live in. Much like Kennedy’s assasination, there was a sort of generalized loss of innocence.

  • Shayna Levine-Hefetz says:

    My husband works in Washington DC and when I heard that a plane crashed into the Pentagon with another in the air possibly headed toward DC, I called my husband and told him to get out of DC. They eventually began evacuating DC – but they also closed the trains (afraid they would be potential targets) so he couldn’t take his usual train home to Baltimore. I didn’t hear from him the whole day – but he did thankfully make it home due to the kindness of a stranger with a car heading in our general direction. I remember holding my eldest (who was under a year old at the time) and wondering if my husband was going to make it home…

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