Friday, February 24, 2006

history and memory

Probably a tribute to my chosen academic field, I can remember where I was when I first heard about several historic (tm) moments. What strikes me about most of them - 9/11, the assasination attempt on Reagan, the Challenger explosion, the death of Princess Diana - is the sheer ordinariness of what I was doing at that moment. 9/11 was a very ordinary morning; in an odd way, I'm grateful, as 9/10 was one of the lovliest ordinary days of my life.

I was doing something unusual (no, I won't tell you what)(no it wasn't naughty) when I learned that the first bombs had fallen in Iraq. I can still, very vividly, see the shadow of the (very tall) man who told the group I was with. I remember the deep shock that struck all of us. There followed a long, very long, moment of silence, as we all struggled to wrap our brains around the actuality of war.

When I started Kindergarten, part of the "welcome to school" drill included telling us the location of the fall-out shelters. I couldn't have found the USSR on a map, but I knew that they might drop bombs on us at any moment. When the Berlin Wall fell, I truly hoped and prayed that this meant a generation would grow up without the underlying issues that so framed my childhood. (Admittedly, I was a rather neurotic child, but still.)

I see no end in sight. Whether we leave Iraq tomorrow or when I am an old woman, there will be a civil war. Indeed, I'm not sure that a civil war hasn't already begun. I grew up with nuclear warheads and Iranian hostages; somehow I wonder if that might have been simpler than growing up under the cloud of an undeclared war.

1 comment:

tommyspoon said...

Speaking as someone who grew up in Washington, D.C. (thus painfully aware that everyone I cared for was immediately screwed in the event of a "full nuclear exchange" with the Soviet Union), I am officially sick and tired of the phrase "Post 9/11 World". The only thing that has changed for me since that terrible day is that flying has become a bigger pain in the ass.

I know that there are people in this country who were scared shitless on that day and remain so to this day. The only thing I have to say to them is one of my favorite lines from "Die Hard":

"Welcome to the party, pal!"