It is quite incredible how the brain stores episodic memories. The beautiful three pound mass that lives in our skulls, uses the medial temporal lobe to record not only the setting and time of a particular scene, but also the emotions we were feeling. Typically the more extraordinary the memory, the more details we remember.
Thirteen years have passed since I witnessed the tragic events that took place on September 11th and I can still vividly recall the events before, after and during with great clarity. The evening before the day that we would all soon refer to as 9/11, my godmother came over. We had a lovely dinner and then she invited me to spend the night. I loved sleepover parties with my godmother, where I would stay up past midnight petting her cats, and peering out her Upper East Side window, watching the men in the piano bar beneath her building. We watched late night television and I eventually fell asleep. The next morning I ventured to my Hell’s Kitchen high school, thinking that although I was only fifteen, I did not look that much different than the young professionals sharing the six train with me. I wondered to what illustrious careers they were headed to. I wonder if any of those faces did not make it back home that night. It was an unusually calm morning. I was not walking the brisk pace I was used to. My fellow New Yorkers looked happy, appreciative of one of the last few summer days before fall officially would set in. I arrived to my homeroom at 8:05 am where Bronx students were talking about the Yankees field being flooded, our teacher was lamenting about her celiac disease to a colleague and I chatted about my upcoming 16th birthday.
By 9:15am, I was in my history class, which because of overcrowding was held in the principle’s conference room. It was a treat being in that room. We sat on leather chairs that spun, and had a panoramic view of lower Manhattan. The twenty of us in the classroom were obviously distracted. We knew there were two planes jutting out of the sides of the Twin Towers. We knew it was not an accident. While our teacher knew as well, he went on about Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Right before the seconds counted down to the 10am bell, I saw the crumbling of a structure that I was just in the week prior for an audition. I remember everything that happened next, but the rest of those memories do not solely belong to me. They belong to my friends that lost family members that day. And they belong to my city, that lost it’s highest guiding point but nevertheless remained resilient.