Sunday, August 20, 2006

I Remember

I saw the movie World Trade Center on Friday night. Initially, I wasn't too excited about the prospect. I anticipated a typically cheesy, Nicholas Cageish, cliche-driven, pseudo-historical regurgitation of already-familiar events, ala Jerry Bruckheimmer. Oliver Stone and the extremely talented cast he assembled delivered something else entirely.

What I got was a powerful, moving, even haunting story that developed along the themes of families, love, courage, and loyalty. I doubt it will win many Oscars, and it hasn't really made a big splash among the critics or box office. The magic of WTC wasn't that it had the abiblity to whisk you off to unseen worlds or unimaginable adventures. The power of WTC wasn't that it provided a brief hiatus from reality by drawing us nearer to what would otherwise only be dreams. The magic, the power of WTC was that it took us to a place we'd already been, and then let us forget the movie itself.

WTC took us to our memories. We all share a part of that day. When I watched the movie I was forced to think back to that black day and the darker days that followed. WTC did not create a false emotional experience; it simply drew on our past and reminded me of the emotions that had always been there, emotions that we all shared.

When was the last time we remembered? When was the last time you looked past the present and submerged your mind, heart, and soul in the events of that day? Where were we when we first heard the news? Where did we spend the rest of the day? Whose hand did we reach for as the horrific images unfolding before our eyes began to hit home?

When did you first cry about it? For one of my friends it was on the way to school the next morning as he listened to the numbers. I think it hit a lot of us in the days that followed as the news footage focused on the misery of the families. Remember? Remember those signs posted all over NYC? Pictures, short pleading messages, phone numbers, and the scrawl of a child's prayer, "Daddy, please come home." I first cried as I sat alone in front of a computer screen, writing, thinking, processing, and ultimately, mourning.

Our memories serve as mnemonic monuments. We have built monuments practically since time began. Most are intended to commemorate some great king, battle, or wonderful event. We have plenty in D.C. in honor of our founding fathers and those who have died while in military service. There are monuments in DC, NYC, and even in a field in Pennsylvania dedicated to 9/11. And now we have one more eloquently powerful monument: the movie World Trade Center.

We must never forget 9/11. I fear the monuments in our minds were gradually torn down as 9/11 stopped being a memory and was morphed into a political pawn. Now when we think of 9/11 all we remember is which political party we like best, or perhaps which one we hate. 9/11 is no longer an event that has the ability to stand on its own; to many its only merit is its contribution to a broader conversation that also includes words like "terror," "war," "Iraq," and "Al Qaida."

We must never forget. Period. Not, "We need to remember in order that we can fight a war," not, "We need to remember because it supports our particular political view," not even "We need to remember in order to prevent it from ever happening again." There will always be a time for our memories to galvanize us into action. But that action should always wait on, follow after, and never replace the simple memory of the event itself. 9/11 is not a rallying cry. It is a memory in all our minds, an experience we all share.

We remember, and we honor those who died that day. This is why every American should see WTC. It helps us remember, and our memory by its very existence honors our fallen brothers.

September 11 is coming up. What will you do to commemorate the day? What will you do to honor those who died? What will you do to honor the broken lives of those left behind? Just on this one day, resist the urge to get political, resist the urge to make that day about anything other than what it was. Resist the urge to ignore it, and resist the urge to reduce it to pettiness by wrapping it like a bow around current events.

Just remember. Go see the movie, sit down, and open your eyes. But as you watch, don't just watch the movie as it unfolds before you.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the powerful reminder.

7:58 PM  

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