When I was young, I remember the adults in my family talking about the day JFK was assassinated. My mother was only 12 at the time, but she, along with everyone else, claimed they could remember exactly what they were doing the moment they heard the news, no matter how mundane the memory. Sitting in math class at school, doing housework, shopping for groceries – it didn’t matter. They remembered the moment with crystal clarity.
My roommate in college woke me up and uttered four simple words. Just four. “There’s been an attack.” I climbed out of bed, half-awake, and stumbled to the ratty couch I had picked up for 30 bucks at a thrift store. Such a plain, banal, unmemorable memory. But when I saw the footage it was as if a red-hot poker was thrust into my mind, searing the experience there forever. Of course, I now know my mom was telling the truth about JFK.
The mantra “Never Forget” has always seemed silly to me, as if there was a chance I, or any of us for that matter, could somehow forget about what happened. No, we can’t. We’ll never forget, whether we want to or not. There’s tragedy there, in that a handful of men were able to abuse us, irrevocably altering our hopes and dreams and beliefs and fears and memories. But there’s beauty, too. We, the United States of America, shared an experience that bound us together. No matter who we were, whether white or black, male or female, young or old; no matter where we were, at school, in the car, at work, at home; and no matter what we were doing, no matter how mundane it was, we stopped. And we watched. And we remembered. Together.
Evan Derrick is the Entertainment Editor for Beliefnet.com