9/11: An Unexpected Site Of Cultural Memory


In the construct of the nation-state, despite the illusion of natural homelands, exist sites of cultural memory. There are memories of settlers, of migrations, and of war; of battles of people and places that make up the history of the present. There are memories of greatness and lowliness; there are memories of change. And there are memories of the time when the nation stood still, when the silence was deafening, and the heart of the nation was shaken.

There are time periods that leave the nation-state ashamed, and there are timeless periods which capture the greatness of the nation. In between these, there are unforgettable moments where the nation is brought to its knees; its citizens redefined by unexpected events. The people, for a moment, are uncertain about their reality and their future. And the silence that was deafening became a somber silence, and the heart of the nation was tested.

But the nation would never let itself be defined by those who sought to silence it. The cultural memory of many sites before – of those whose bravery, endeavor, and commitment to the nation to create a place free from fear, was brought to the minds of its citizens. And its citizens sought Justice even though they were not sure what she looked like. Yet again the nation would prepare for battle. And even though it was told the battle was righteous, the silence that had become somber became a confusing silence. And the heart of the nation bled.

Months and years pass, the confusion became greater. The nation that was once united in its grief became divided because of it. There were those who made a mockery, there were those who took advantage, and yet still, there were those who chose to be passive. And though the nation still bickers about matters great and small, it allows that unexpected site of cultural memory to be part of its identity. The confusing silence continued and the heart of the nation was transformed.

What the nation has been transformed to is still uncertain. That unexpected site of cultural memory is still too present; hindsight has not lived long enough. And though it is believed that the heart of the nation was rebuilt, it was still a heart filled with anguish. So the nation goes through the days, hoping and praying and waiting for its full restoration. But on the day it remembers that unexpected site of cultural memory, the confusing silence becomes a courageous silence. And the heart of the nation, if only for the day, was strengthened.