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Reliving Tragedy on 9/11

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Today, the 14th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks on the United States, we remember the nearly 3,000 people who lost their lives. Writing for Tablet, a former intern at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum talks about how under the weight of history, memories can become holy:

I heard Sept. 11 through the voice of firefighters, widows, and teenagers. I heard it from bankers who almost fell through a window as they watched the plane hit their tower. I heard it from burn victims, from rescue workers, from architects. I heard it from artists. I heard it from New Yorkers who resented the tourists that came to gawk at the hole in the ground.

There is the plot that we remember. People who returned from the Trade Center with only blisters and a headache piece together the story after the fact, when they have heard others’ accounts, watched the film footage, spoken to their coworkers. Under the weight of history, all memory becomes holy. A man saves the undershirt he wore in a Ziploc bag and sends it to the museum nine years later. A woman’s burnt driver’s license is recovered and now is sacred.

From the oral histories, I have gathered a vast collection of external memory. I have walked barefoot on New York City sidewalks with bleeding ankles because I am stubborn and don’t know how to wear high heels. I can describe the freight train pancake of the towers collapsing, as one floor slams against the other. But this is not the sound of the building’s fall, or the fear that comes with not knowing. The deep memories are the memories I can’t summon. These are the memories I can’t puncture.

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