I have very vivid memories of the morning of September 11, 2001. I was supposed to fly out of Jackson, Tennessee through St. Louis to Indianapolis that morning. When I got out of the shower, my wife came into our bathroom and told me that she was watching Good Morning America and they had reported a fire at the World Trade Center. By the time I made it into our bedroom where the television was on, they had confirmed that a plane had crashed into the building although they thought it was a small commuter plane. When they mentioned that it was a plane, I told my wife, “I bet I have a hard time making it through the airport today.”
I continued to watch the news as I packed for my trip. I remember that the angle they were showing only pictured the tower that was on fire and I couldn’t see the other tower. As they talked about the plane and the fire, I remember seeing a plane fly in from the left side of the screen. It seemed to disappear from the screen, like it continued down below the frame of the picture. I remember thinking “No wonder a plane crashed into the building if they let them fly that close!” I remember that a little later they told that another plane had flown into the second tower.
You will notice that I used the words “I remember” or something similar in most of the sentences in the previous paragraphs. This is intentional. A few years ago, I ran across some videos of the news coverage from 9-11 on YouTube. These were not compilation videos edited down from the original footage. They were what you would have actually seen if you were watching that morning. One was the feed from ABC News that showed the broadcast from Good Morning America that morning. What I saw on the screen was considerably different from the story above that I repeated many times. The biggest thing that was different from my story was the part where the plane hit the second tower. You could clearly see the impact of the plane. And the reaction of the people covering it in the studio was immediate and dramatic.
The differences in my memory of these events and what I see now when I watch these videos reminds me that my memory is not perfect. The more important thing seems to be to be able to tell an interesting story rather than get the story 100% accurate. I have seen conspiracy theory documentaries that show President Bush talking about seeing the first plane crashing into the building live on TV. The documentaries claim a conspiracy because there was no broadcast of this or any existing video footage. I see it nothing more that inaccurate memories and nothing else. We play these moments over and over in our minds and our memories are clouded by time and all of the information we have accumulated over the years. We try to justify our actions, make sense of events and arrange things in an order where none exists. I begin to assess my capability to accurately remember any event. I remember my stories well but I know that they have evolved over the years. I begin to question the accuracy of the reporting of any historical event. Our perspective and prejudices inform the way we communicate and understand these events. Despite our best efforts to be as accurate as possible, our histories will always be flawed. But they are the best we have.
My wife and youngest child took me to our small local airport that day. We were listening to the radio in the car when the first tower fell. I checked in at the desk at the airport. The man in the line behind me was from the FAA and was there to shut down the airport. The only television in the airport was in an office behind the desk of the counter. I watched the second tower fall on the small screen of that TV while standing at the counter. Before I left the airport, I was interviewed by the local newspaper. I went home and stayed there watching the news for the rest of the day. At some point, I needed to go into town. There were nearly no cars on the streets. The mall was closed. Most other stores were closed too. I don’t remember crying but I felt bad. Our world had changed.
Singer, Songwriter, Entertainer, Storyteller