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The stories we tell.
By Hannah Wallace
I wouldn’t consider a Sept. 11 post, but that there’s a neat 9/11 story from a Manhattanite writer that surfaces every year on her blog. “Neat” probably isn’t the ideal word, but a story well told, I think, whatever the appropriate adjective may be. Down-to-earth and personal, without being maudlin. (And be sure to check out the follow-up here.)
I’m not sure why it is that we’re compelled to tell our “where I was” stories—but it’s an undeniable urge, isn’t it? I suppose there’s something in the intensity of the memory that we have to revisit, always always always reproducing that surge of emotion like a feedback loop, from whisper to deafening, exponential and instant: a precise moment that ties us to so many millions of people feeling the same thing at the same time. I suppose we’re trying always to get our arms around it and turn the knob down to a manageable volume. And are reassured, at least, that we can’t.
Ironically, 9/11 is as isolatingly personal as it is a shared experience. And I think it’s the telling, and not always the listening, that’s the compulsion—like describing your dreams, trying to recapture a vivid and personal time when you failed to pinch yourself awake.
That morning, I stumbled out of bed and into the kitchen at 9:45 or so, parents already at the Asolo for the first day of rehearsal. (In the less-than-two-mile drive from house to theater, Mom hit traffic from the motorcade and remembered that President Bush was in town at Booker Elementary—without realizing that something had happened.) I turned on the TV over the fridge and bleary-eyed tried to punch the channels upwards towards ESPN, until I realized that the same thing was on every channel. And the towers fell. And Peter Jennings cried. And I stood all morning in the kitchen in my pajamas.