There are days that you never forget. Days in your life that when you let yourself think about them, the memory is more clear and vivid that what you did in the last hour. Every detail floods your mind and the experience takes over your body as if you are living it all over.
Even though it is something you never want to relive.
And before you know it there are tears running down your face.
The day Kennedy was shot is like that for me. The day my father died. The day I walked out of a full time corporate job for the last time. And today, September 11.
In a year that has been marked by disruption, even the memorial ceremony will look different. The reading of the names of the victims will be pre-recorded instead of being read live. But the one thing that won’t change for me is remembering. I will continue to carve out time to pause and to remember as I do every year.
I will pause
I will go back to that moment standing in my office on 19th Street watching Pat Kiernan on NY1 with a picture of the North Tower behind him and what looked like a plane hitting it. I will be in what we called the large conference room with my Time Warner colleagues watching in horror as the second tower was hit. I will walk up Sixth Avenue in a daze alongside three of my coworkers. Throngs of strangers will surround us, some covered in ashes. I will see the faces of all those people – resolute and staring straight ahead – united in a common fear. The sirens will blare in my ears. The firetrucks will race by.
I will walk into that church on 23rd Street, sit in a pew in the back, and cry for the first time. I will walk back into my apartment, my home, but I will not feel safe there. I will walk through Central Park, the sun casting brilliant shadows over the eerie silence. I will hear a quiet I once thought impossible in this city. I will sit in shock in that cafe on Second Avenue with my friend and no matter how many vodkas I have I will still be sober. I will live the days and the weeks after trying to make sense until I realize it will never make sense. I will let myself feel it all again as I watch the memorial on television. Until they read the name of my friend I went to junior high and high school with, William J. Dimmling. I will cry.
This is my ritual of remembrance.
And then I will go back to my life today
I will go on. Because that is what you do. Even after days, you will never forget.
Except this year going on feels different. This year we are still in the middle of a new and very different crisis, one in which we are not united as we were after 9/11, one that is not relegated to a single day but seems to go on with no known end date.
After 9/11 everyone wanted to do their part. Now, something as simple as wearing a mask to help mitigate the enemy virus causes a rampage inside of a Trader Joe’s. Wearing a mask is just too much a burden for some to bear in 2020. I am thinking they have forgotten what happened nineteen years ago. I hope they take time today to pause and remember. It might do them some good. It might do us all some good.
A version of this post originally appeared on September 11, 2013. It has been updated to reflect the times.