Friday, September 11, 2009

Flashback Friday: 9/11/01


I saw this sticker on the rear window of a car the other day. I can't decide whether it's spectacularly inappropriate or acceptable in a vigilante justice kind of way.

Today is September 11th. I've written about my memories of that day before, but it's been a couple of years so I'm going to do it again.

I've always been intrigued by flashbulb memories. When I was learning about them in high school psychology class (in 1998), the example that was always given was the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Obviously, none of us in that classroom, except maybe (maybe) the teacher had been alive at that time. So we students understood the concept, but I don't think we really had much to compare it to. There was the Challenger disaster, of course, which I actually do remember. There was also the fall of the Berlin Wall and the death of Princess Diana (the latter having happened so recently, however, that it hadn't really evolved into a flashbulb memory yet).

But from now on, I think the classic, textbook example of a flashbulb memory will be September 11th. I know a common response to these kinds of tales is often, "I don't care where you or anyone else was when you found out about what had happened." So if you don't care, don't read on. If you do care, please know that I care, too, and I'd like to hear your story.

In the fall semester of 2001, I was living in that most awesome of places, the BYU FLSR (Foreign Language Student Residence - basically a nerdy place full of nerds who live with other nerds and nerdily speak foreign languages to each other all day) Japanese House. I woke up early on that Tuesday morning, got a bowl of cereal, and sat down to check my email while I ate. The yahoo.com page (which I have since searched for - unsuccessfully - on internet archives) that came up had only one sentence of news, something cryptic like, "World Trade Center incident kills 9." I thought it must be a mistaken reprint of a headline from when the WTC was bombed in 1993 and went on eating and checking email.

Around that time Jeremy, who lived a few doors down in the Arabic house, called me. He had just talked with a Palestinian friend on the phone, who had told him the news (but with slightly more detail than Yahoo! had at the moment). I then broke a major rule in the FLSR and turned on an English-language news channel. At almost that exact moment, the first tower collapsed. I watched it happen live on TV.

The rest of that day still feels hurried and stressed, even in memory. I went to class as usual and remember seeing hordes of BYU students gathered around the few television monitors in the bookstore, watching the events unfold. There was the Devotional, which was changed to a prayer meeting of sorts. But most of all, on that day and even more in the days to come, there was a sudden sense of importance attached to the fact that for two years now, Jeremy had been studying this obscure, strange language called Arabic. It seemed as though the pieces for his - soon to be our - future were falling into place.

In many ways, I think September 11th acted as a catalyst in our relationship. In the week before the attack, we were at that awkward "so, are we getting married or what?" phase of a long-term dating relationship. I'm not saying we wouldn't have gotten married had the attacks
not happened - just that those events seemed to allow us to see our plans more clearly. We got engaged in October, had to deal with sending out wedding invitations during the anthrax-in-the-mail scare soon afterwards, and were married in November after having our flight to Portland annoyingly delayed by that idiot who ran back through the newly beefed-up security screening area so he wouldn't miss a football game.

Other random things I remember about that day: hearing that Julie Stoffer (of recent '
The Real World' fame) was supposed to be on one of the doomed flights - this turned out to be true; hearing that a Mormon missionary conference was supposed to be held at the WTC that morning, but everyone through individual miraculous events managed to be absent - this, of course, was false. I also remember everything being called "the NYC and DC attacks," which at some point - I don't know exactly when - changed to simply "September 11th." Off the top of my head, I can't think of another world event that is known simply by its date.

What does your flashbulb memory illuminate?

12 comments:

Liz Johnson said...

I'm really torn on that bumper sticker, too. That's a weird one.

I vividly remember finding out that Colosio had been killed (a Mexican presidential candidate) which was huge news in Mexico at the time. It's random, because it really didn't affect my life AT ALL, but I still remember everybody freaking out like it was some weird movie. Random.

shabba shabba said...

I remember the day I hit a ping-pong ball so hard it broke. It. Was. Awesome. My competitor just surrendered in the middle of the game. Mostly because we didn't have a ball anymore.

Sharalea said...

I was also living in the FLSR that semester (9/11) & remember waking up to English words on the TV thinking --what tha?-

It was interesting also to speak with friends from other countries and their perspective on the events.

The devotional was wonderful, and my entire family was in town for my grandmother's funeral--which was in many ways very comforting.

Mikael said...

I like that 9/11 seemed to have opened up all these new opportunities for you and jeremy, that is romantic. Seemed meant to be. And why were you guys ever in that "do we get married or what?" phase. wasn't it so obvoiuse you were meant to be together? It is to me!
Thanks for sharing this.

christi and clifton said...

I was eating cereal too! :) My roommate's mom called and told us to watch the TV-that New York had been bombed. So we sat transfixed in front of the TV until we had to go to classes. We were supposed to have a stake activity that day, but ended up having a special prayer together instead. I have recorded in my journal that everyone put "In God We Trust" on everything and hung flags everywhere. Looking back, I think we, as a country, stopped doing that faster than we should have.

AmandaStretch said...

I blogged about it two years ago.

http://thebookguardian.blogspot.com/2007/09/11-september-2001.html

Steven said...

Did you have Mr. Evans for Psychology?!?!?!

Jeanerbee said...

I was getting ready to head up to the class I TA'd for at BYU. The professor of the class called just then and was rambling about our early meeting being cancelled and his son not leaving the MTC for the mission field that day because all the planes were grounded - he finally realized I had no clue what was going on and told me to turn on the news. I turned on the tiny tv we had there at Casa Dea and saw the second tower fall. I remember that it took a while for it to sink in, and then I just felt like I couldn't believe that could be happening! I don't remember much else from that day - I had even forgotten we had a devotional. Brad and I were also in that "so should we get married phase" and it's funny that you mention it... I remember thinking in the days following that we should hurry up and get hitched so that he would be less likely to get drafted if this all turned into a big war....

Nancy said...

The 4th of July comes to mind for something known by its date. :)

Remember, remember the 5th of November.

Not that I'm trying to prove you wrong, because I do see your point...things just started popping into my head.

I wrote about my memories on my blog this year; I thought I had done it before but I don't think I have...couldn't find anything about it.

The Ensign's said...

That was the day that I got my first speeding ticket because I was racing to school because I had been watching the news all morning and was going to be late for class. The cop could have been a bit more understanding.

Suzanne Bubnash said...

All the usuals come to mind such as JFK, RFK, MLK deaths, plus the Challenger explosion. Also the (1969) moon landing, the fall of the Berlin Wall, Walt Disney's death (give me a break, I was @ 11 years old), the Reagan shooting, release of US hostages from Iran, the fall of Saigon in 1975 (we watched it on our tiny TV w/ our neighbor who had participated in Tet).

I bet you could guess a person's age pretty close by having him list flashbulb memories.

God Of Bacon said...

Funny sticker...but I don't believe it will deter many mass murderers.

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