Wednesday, September 11, 2013

9/11 and the Power of Storytelling

This is the twelfth anniversary of one of the worst days in our country's history.  Of course, I don't need to tell you that.  Everyone reading this blog is old enough to know what happened and I doubt there is a mental adult in the country that doesn't know what happened.
Everyone remembers where they were on that day.  All of us have stories about where we were when we found out and what we did next.  That doesn't make it unique.  Just about everyone of the right age remembers where they were when the Challenger blew up or when JFK was shot.  Big events make a big emotional impact.  They're easier to remember.
I was thinking about this today and I was struck by how September 11th stands out, maybe especially for my generation.  With the rise of social media and the relative ease of reconnecting on the internet in the middle 00's, I reestablished ties with most of the important people of my high school years.  With many of them, we talked about lives and families and such but also included stories of where we were when it all happened.
It's like it was all such a big thing for us that we had to share it so it wouldn't overpower us.  Nothing else has been like that for me in my life.  The loss of the Challenger was big news and a big surprise but it didn't feel like this.  It didn't feel like the world changed.  My life has had a long pre-9/11 period and then a post-9/11 period.  Same with almost everyone else.  There is nothing else like that.
At least not for my generation.  Talk to my parents generation and (without too much prodding) you can hear about where they were when they heard that JFK was shot.  It was so traumatic that it stamped itself indelibly on their memories too.  The young idealist President was suddenly gone and their world would never be the same again.
That made me wonder about the news of Pearl Harbor.  I know it was a shock, but did people of the 'greatest' generation tell everyone where they were when the news came over?  Sadly, I don't have anyone old enough in my circles anymore to ask.
And that was a different time as far as media was concerned.  There were radio reports and newspaper coverage the next day, but they didn't have replays and replays.  As far as I know, there was no widespread hunt for amateur film or camerawork to provide more angles.  If so many of us hadn't gone home to watch several days of news coverage, would we still feel like this?
I don't know.
None of this is meant as criticism.  Grief is something that must be dealt with and this was obviously a shared grief.  I know that when I've shared my (not very unique or interesting) story, I've felt better afterwards.  I can only imagine that's true for everyone else too.  We say that we'll always remember, that we'll never forget.  That's very true.  We couldn't if we wanted to.


readingdoc said...

My Mom talked more about the death of FDR than Pearl Harbor. News film like this was seen at the movie theater in the news reels there.

DD4 said...

I liked this post—giving your thoughts on such an important and often, lifechanging, event. I watched Fox News streaming live during the reading of the names yesterday. Tears came to my eyes quite often.

My Aunt Ginny may be able to shed some light on her reactions to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Peder. If you wrote to her, she would probably write a good report which you could post on your blog. Let me know if you want her contact information.