The Silver Lining | On Remembering

  • Yesterday, I was at Starbucks. I’d gone with two coworkers on an afternoon break of caffeine and whipped cream and came back with fear. The increased police presence on my way home only escalated my fears despite my relief at hearing that all my Boston-area loved ones were safe.
  • When Newtown happened, I was also at work, hunched over my desk and refreshing twitter, hoping news would break that the shooting was just a hoax, a rumor exaggerated. I went home and held my baby tight.
  • When the Virginia Tech shooting happened, I was also at work, at a different office. At the time, I was a freelancer and I used to go to a new office nearly every day. They all blur mind, each one indistinguishable than the next unless I worked on an extended project. I was only at that office for two days, and yet I remember everything about it. The rows of desks set up classroom style, all pointing toward the giant windows. From my spot in the front, everyone could see what I was working on. The clutter scattered around the room of mood boards, paint, protractors, and storyboards, inspiration dripping from every surface. The drab gray decor and the bathroom hidden in an alcove that was so ornate, it didn’t match the rest of the place. The salad I ordered for lunch, which came with the wrong dressing. And I remember gchatting with my friend exactly at the time of the shooting, where his girlfriend was currently attending grad school.
  • I remember sitting in the Machine Room (where tapes are dubbed and large, powerful computer consoles are stored), freezing in my jacket despite the heat outside. The familiar whirr of the machines suddenly switched off, leaving only silence. The circuit breaker wouldn’t fix it. I tore off my jacket and went into the main office, where everyone had gathered in the dark, the only light streaming in from the windows inside the usually-closed Editing rooms. We all looked at each other with the same thought in our minds: terrorism. My heart amped its pace and my fingers couldn’t fumble fast enough to call my parents and my boyfriend (who later became my husband), to find out if they were okay, if they knew anything. But my cell refused to make the call and rumors swirled that it wasn’t terrorism, just a black out.Still, I left with coworkers and as I walked from Lexington Avenue all the way to the Hudson River, I worried I’d be heading right toward the next attack. My mind was full of plans run, duck, abandon your shoes if you need to. In a fight or flight situation, I was ready to flee. One of my coworkers had experience from 9/11 and knew to wait by the One-Day Cruise ships. “They’ll start letting people on, I promise,” he said. And they did. We caught the first trip across the way to Hoboken and I walked the mile back to my apartment, terrified the rumors were wrong. That this was another attack.  I wore uncomfortable heels that day and my feet were cut up and raw from the miles of walking. Ever since then, I’ve only worn sensible shoes to work.
  • When the planes hit the Twin Towers, I was still asleep. Until my roommate barged into my room, frantic and ranting so wildly, it took me several minutes to decipher what she said. I sprang out of bed and grabbed my cell phone. But even though I was four hours away from NYC at Syracuse University, the cell phone towers there were knocked out as well. I couldn’t get in touch with my sister to find out she was okay. She was at Columbia University, which is nowhere near the World Trade Center, but close enough that she could have been in the vicinity for whatever reason. I had to trek a mile down to the shops and wait on a long line for a pay phone just to call my parents.A few years later, I moved to Hoboken and the Path train opened back up into the WTC, I remember taking it and being shocked it traveled directly through the destruction site, right into the heart of Ground Zero, enough to see the rivets that used to be part of the old buildings. Now, I take the Path from the WTC station every day but the building has been paved over. It’s just a tunnel I go through, dark and forgetful. But every day I walk down the steps into the station, I remember.
  • It goes farther back. I remember being in the bottom of the stairwell in High School, on my way to Western Civ, when someone at the top of the stairs shouted about the shooting at Columbine. Suddenly the bomb threats we’d been having because some kid wanted desperately to delay his tests were no longer funny. They were no longer something to ignore.
  • I remember being in the back seat of the car as my mom drove my friends and I home from a Jewel concert and hearing that Princess Diana had been involved in a tragic car accident.
  • Ask anyone my parents’ age and they all know where they were when JFK was assassinated.
  • We all remember where we were during tragedies and scary situations.

 

I remember where I was even though I was never there.

 

But I don’t remember where I was for the good things.

 

I have no idea what I was doing when we first landed on Mars, when the God particle was discovered, when we first cloned a sheep named Dolly. I have no idea when the Gulf War ended even though Wikipedia tells me it was in 1991 with Operation Desert Storm ending November 30, 1995. I was a Sophomore in high school in November 1995, and it was just one month after the October 3rd verdict of the OJ Simpson trial. I remember exactly where I was when I heard the verdict and I had to lean into my friend next to me in English and ask her what “acquitted” meant. So why do I remember the OJ verdict and not this other important piece of History?

 

I can tell you vaguely who won some of the most prominent Olympic races in 2012, but I can only think of two names for the 2008 Olympics (Nastia Luikin and Michael Phelps). I know way too much about the plots and romantic entanglements of various TV shows and not enough about our world-wide achievements. Even our national achievements.

 

I think it’s time we start remembering the good things. Keep those forefront and prominent in our heads so they are etched in our brains as deeply as the tragedies, the ones that make us collectively hold our breath. I want to remember the world as a good place. I want to see the glass as half full again.

 

 

 

 

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