The Lion's Tale

Expected to never forget without anything to always remember

Ayelette Halbfinger, Guest Columnist

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Following Zman Kodesh, the entire upper school went to the front parking lot where we stood in unison while the American flag was lowered to half mast. After a short prayer, we held still for a moment of silence – a short moment merely ten seconds long – and proceeded to our first period classes.

As I stood silent for those ten seconds, images of the World Trade Center’s two white skyscrapers flooded my mind. Images from each stage of the September 11 attack: both towers standing tall, a smoky sky as the first tower was hit, and both towers crumbling into flames and ashes. These images are my memories from 9/11, but they aren’t memories at all. They are a collection of photographs and videos I’ve seen secondhand.

I want nothing more than the ability to never forget, but in order to do so, I need something to always remember. While the photos and videos I’ve seen at various 9/11 assemblies resemble nothing close to my experience on Sept. 11, 2001, those images have created an alternate “memory” which I use as my own in order to never forget.

These alternate memories are important now more than ever as a new generation grows up which did not live to see the tragic events that happened on this day. Students no longer understand what a “pre-9/11 America” means. We know nothing other than long metal detector lines at every government building and the privilege, that is having TSA pre-check so that you don’t have to take off your shoes in the airport security lines. Post-9/11 is all we know. And 9/11 itself is at best a blur.

At CESJDS, September 11 is not always covered in American history junior year. There simply isn’t enough time in two semesters to fit in every event which impacted this country the past 200 plus years. And even if there was, students would spend sixth through twelfth grade without a true understanding of the day which formed contemporary American society. This calls for a real assembly. An assembly where students are given information with which to connect the lowering of the American flag and the recitation of Kel Malei Rachamim. An assembly where students are given the photographs and live video footage to form their own alternate memories. An assembly which provides ample time for students to digest and connect to their “memories” during the moment of silence, not feeling as though they barely closed their eyes to think when time was called. But an assembly which encourages students to build something to always remember and embeds in them the importance behind the saying “never forget.”

We are part of this country’s future, and we want to partake in remembering even when we have nothing of our own to remember. But to do so, we must be given the tools with which to form memories of our own from the experiences of others. We must be given blocks with which to build the 9/11 that we will never forget.

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2 Comments

2 Responses to “Expected to never forget without anything to always remember”

  1. Allen Roth on September 12th, 2017 9:53 am

    An important topic . Several excellent ideas on how to instill memories of an important national event. Perhaps we should strive to have people who experienced 9-11 tell their tales to a generation that did not experience that horrible attack and its after effects.

    [Reply]

  2. Pam Machefsky on September 12th, 2017 11:30 am

    Excellent

    [Reply]

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