Thursday, February 10, 2011

From History to Memory Work: its about collecting the fragments

“In acknowledging the performative nature or remembering, memory work takes on board remembering’s productivity and encourages the practitioner to use the pretexts of memory, the traces of the past that remain in the present as raw material in the production of new stories about the past. These stories may heal the wounds of the past. They may also transform the ways individuals and communities live in and relate to the present and the future.” (Family Secrets, Annette Kuhn, p158)

September 11th, 2001. It is a day that we all remember differently, a day that history has already started to write a narrative around; the Pearl Harbor or Kennedy assassination of my generation. I was 12 years old on September 11th, my 7th grade class was on a bus headed from outside Philly to Western CT for a overnight, Jewish camping program. We were watching “The Mask” on the TVs on the bus, and I had drifted into a sleep somewhere in northern Jersey. I remember waking up and commenting sleepily to my friend, seated next to me about how it was so strange that there were big factories in a city like that. It was the first time I ever remember seeing the New York Skyline.

Those of us who owned cell phones at the time, of which I was not one, had not been allowed to bring them on the trip. But some of the teachers had phones. Soon they began frantically calling people. Rumors spread quickly throughout the bus, planes had flown into the Twin Towers. Or something, we weren’t sure. A hijacking, maybe? No one knew if it was an accident or not. People started screaming, crying, taking pictures.

I remember somebody said “we are watching history right now”. I remember that moment so distinctly. This idea in my head, what we were watching was this really big moment. Something was happening.

The day continues to be a blur. We pulled over at a rest stop, turned around and when we got back to the school they were all being really nice to us and gave us bagels. A lot of people were still crying, I didn’t really understand, but I remember trying to cry along. I remember my mom had been really worried about me when I finally got home that afternoon. She said she wanted to drive up there and find me and bring me back. I didn’t really want to do anything that afternoon, I sat and played on the computer and watched TV. I wanted to watch the news but she wouldn’t let me. She said they were just going to play the same thing over and over again and I didn’t need to see that. So I watched Nickelodeon.

Since that one day a lot of things have been made of it. With new statements and connotations, different parts of this memory come up, different images from television and movies supplement the memories of the towers in my own head. I snapped these pictures on my disposable camera that day, you cant see anything as well as we actually could. But they capture that day for me. A few snapshots to throw into the national memory, different experiences, different places, it’s a day we all remember differently.

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