Five days ago, I went up to the attic and hunted around for a book I hadn’t looked at for many, many, years. It’s a big fat 865-page tome called 'here is new york - a democracy of photographs' - a compilation of images from the September 11, 2001 World Trade Center attacks in Manhattan.
Among the nearly thousand photographs in it, there are three of me - looking on, dazed and horrified, as the world collapsed around us.
There’s a reason why the book is hidden away in the attic. I don’t like looking at it. I have enough memories from the day and the weeks and months that followed to last a lifetime. And few of them are pretty. The book was a gift from my boyfriend (now husband). He gave it to me seven years ago when I was leaving New York for good. He thought I should have it because even though 9/11 wasn’t an happy event to remember, it would always be the “most powerful” of my memories of Manhattan.
I guess he was right. But I still didn’t want to risk leaving it anyplace where I could chance upon it by accident and have it open up a scabby wound that somehow refuses to heal. No, better to tuck it away out of sight. I wouldn’t have gone searching for it after all this time if I hadn’t been reminded relentlessly through the past fortnight that this was going to be the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
There’s been no getting away from the fact. Newspapers, magazines, radio and TV stations, and the Web are chock full of special reports, documentaries, commentaries, analyses. Blogs and essays have been giving us all sorts of mixed advise - always remember... put it behind... why you should never forget... why it’s necessary get over it...what we did wrong... what we did right...
All this white noise made me restless. It made me feeI like I too had to do something, even if it was something small and personal, to mark this significant passage of time. And since I’m now 3,000 miles away in California, all I could think of doing was pulling out the book and reliving the day in pictures.
The impulse was in part prompted by a report I came across in The Scientific American that says psychologists believe our memories of the tragedy (and any disastrous events as such), while vivid, may be flawed. Really? Could it be that my memories of September 11, that still seem crystal clear, were inaccurate? Were they, like the colours in a Polaroid picture, getting blurry around the edges? It has been an entire decade after all. Three thousand six hundred and fifty-two days (counting the leap years).
It’s hard to comprehend that it has been that long. But there it is, the passage of 10 years marked by two grim bookends - the 9/11 attacks on one and the killing of Osama bin Laden on the other.