Memories Fading

Brendan Birth '16, Columnist

When I was a little seven-year-old, I used to talk to a couple of firefighters at the local fire department station. I didn’t remember their names or the conversations my family had with them, for that matter, but I remember their friendliness and talking to them for a while. After spending a lot of my childhood years getting to know them, I suddenly found they had vanished from my life. I remembered that a lot of firefighters died on September 11, 2001, but I didn’t know whether any of the fatalities involved people from my local fire department. It was only through the mural on the fire door that helped me rationalize several years later that one of the firefighters I often talked with died on 9/11. As traumatic as this event was for so many people, it is still something our society should make every effort to remember.

Why remember such a devastating event? After all, we, as human beings, want to advance beyond the memories of emotional newscasters, plane crashes, and targeting of Muslims and Sikhs after the attacks. While moving on is therapeutic, we can never begin to fully understand our world today without remembering 9/11. Without recalling this event, I would never be able to realize why I am no longer talking to a pair of firefighters, or understand why I have a high school classmate going into Afghanistan, or figure out why my family always has to arrive at the airport three hours early. With the extent to which our world is still tied to the events of September 11, 2001, our society should not be trying to move on and forget.

What makes me sad is that we are trying to forget. I was reminded of this when I walked through the World Trade Center area over the summer. It is an area dominated by commercialism, with the memorial being only a small part of that area. While some people, especially friends and family of 9/11 victims, were upset with the proposal of a commercial-centric World Trade Center, the issue has long since faded into the background. I am reminded of this every time I pass by my neighborhood’s fire station, which used to have a door with a mural remembering the two firefighters from the company who died on 9/11. The mural suddenly disappeared a couple of years ago, showing that someone in the fire department would rather not remember the events of September 11th. I was reminded of this when I saw a disappointingly small crowd at the 9/11 remembrance ceremony on the Academic Quads. The number of people within the Dickinson and Carlisle communities impacted in some way, shape, or form by that day surely had to be larger than the number of people that showed up for the ceremony.

In spite of this, we are never successful at trying to forget. I am reminded of this when I see all the emotional 9/11 posts, even from people who are my age or even a little bit younger. I realize this when seeing the media focus on 9/11 ceremonies, even during this tumultuous time with the conflict in Syria. I think that this is, at least in part, because the event is too graphic to ever forget. If someone like me, who was only in the second grade at the time, has vivid memories of what happened on that day, I can’t even begin to imagine what it was like for my parents’ generation. Because of all this, there is no such thing as “moving beyond 9/11.” Instead of trying to forget and failing at it, our society should stop belittling 9/11 memorials and memories alike. Instead, we should remember and reflect.