My 9/11

It's amazing how fast we can forget.

Our brain can hold only so many vivid memories, and just like old newspapers, the older memories start to yellow and curl at the edges to the point that it is difficult to discern the details.

And then there are memories we will never forget the details of--they remain preserved, as if they are framed and forever stay crisp. These "flashbulb memories" are a result of a remarkably significant event; one that is either tragic or joyous enough to remain printed in our mind forever. 

I have a few of these on both sides of the spectrum--graduation, my first day at my first job, the 2004 tsunami, and of course, 9/11. 

Every moment from that morning is so clear, I almost think that I had just endured it the other day. I was getting ready for school, finding some scratchy tattered Hanes socks to throw on. I looked for my father, who was not in his usual spot waiting for us to get in the car.

He was in my brother's room, sitting quietly on the carpet, barely sipping chai and watching the TV. 

I thought he was just taking some extra moments to himself to relax; I innocently asked him what he was watching. And then I saw that infamous moment that would later be playing on televisions all over the world for decades. I didn't understand at the time that I was watching thousands of people die on live TV.

But I did understand the outlandishness of how gruesome it all was--for the first time, I felt time stop. I think I even remember my jaw dropping. 

Assembly at school that day was unbelievably solemn. Groups of parents had hushed conversations about the tragedy while their children scrambled about. My birthday was only 3 days after the attack--we "celebrated" at a small Chinese restaurant that no longer is in business and we only spoke when it was time to order. The sweet-and-sour soup tasted especially sour that night.

I came home to no presents that year. It was yet another thing I didn't understand at the time--my parents were not only dealing with the terror that ensued afterwards, but also one of the biggest stock market crashes.

Presents were not on the top of the priority list.


I'm not really sure what compelled me to write all of this.

For many of us, it's the 16th year marking the attacks. For some of us, it still feels like the first. Time has done a great job of erasing the residual pain for those of us who weren't directly affected.

But I think I wrote this to prove to myself that I still do remember, and I still do care.