According to an article I just read in the NY Times, today is the 8th anniversary of the war in Afghanistan. Not a date one would usually remember, if one hasn’t been personally touched or affected by the war (sure, the work I research and the friends I worry about have both changed in the last decade, but I haven’t ever been to Kabul), though it struck me when I read it because I was immediately brought back to where I sat when I first heard of the war.
I was a senior in high school, and we had been told by people supposedly older and wiser that the bad guys were in Afghanistan, and so that’s where the US military was going. I worried about friends, but most of them went to Iraq two years later and weren’t involved.
I sat at my home, having just eaten dinner with my parents, joking around with my neighborhood best friend, when the news came on. It had been less than a month since September 11th, and this world in which wars could actually happen was brand new to those of us who hardly remembered the Gulf War at all. And reading one line in an article brought back the feeling of it, the smell of my oldest friend’s after shave, the lumpiness and discomfort of the couch in our old living room. I can clearly hear my father’s voice grumbling at the television about warmongers and Vietnam (which he was too young to have anything to do with anyway) and there in the pit of my stomach I can remember the strangely confusing fear I felt. I didn’t know why I should be scared, but I was anyway. It was an entirely new feeling for my 17-year-old, rural self.
This is how I remember. It’s not like reading a book, or watching a movie, or flipping through photo albums in my mind. It’s empathetic toward the version of me that lived through it the first time, and today was a very strong example. Other strong ones? The night Princess Diana died. My first day of kindergarten. The taste of the cigarette that proceeded the Break Up of Doom.
How do you remember? Does the thought of a first kiss still bring butterflies and curled toes? Does fear on such an anniversary shock you to silence? I think if we learn more about how we – as individuals – remember, we can have a much better understanding of how we plan for what’s the come next. I hope, at least.