In his mind, Michael Regan should have been down there. He should have had the guts.
A longtime New York City employee who became first deputy fire commissioner after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Mr. Regan coordinated scores of funerals and memorial services and helped hundreds of shattered families. Still, he could not shake the guilt. He should have been there, down at the World Trade Center.
After a couple of months, Mr. Regan finally shared his remorse with a stunned Fire Department colleague, who told him that he had been there. He had helped transport the bodies of the first deputy fire commissioner, Bill Feehan, and the chief of department, Peter Ganci, to the morgue on First Avenue.
两个月后，里根终于和消防局的一位同事分享了自己的懊悔，让同事大吃一惊。那位同事告诉里根，他已经在那里了。他还帮忙将消防局第一副局长比尔·费汉(Bill Feehan)和消防队队长彼得·甘西(Peter Ganci)的遗体运往位于第一大道的太平间。
Don’t you remember?
Looking back, Mr. Regan said his mental block must have been a way to cope with the instant loss of thousands, including many close friends. “It was a safety mechanism,” he said. “I saw horrible things that day, and I didn’t want to think about those things.”
Twenty years later, the command to “Never Forget” retains its power, jolting us into the past whenever we see it on a hat or flag or the back of a passing car on the Belt Parkway. For all its slogan-like simplicity, these twinned words seem freighted with the complexities of guilt, obligation and even presumption — as if we could ever forget.
But now that an entire generation has been born since the day, versions of the question posed to Mr. Regan might be asked of all of us who lived it in some way. Two planes hijacked by Al Qaeda piercing the north and south towers of the World Trade Center. A third slamming into the Pentagon in Arlington, Va. A fourth crashing in an open field outside Shanksville, Pa. All in less than 90 minutes.
What, exactly, do you remember? What stories do you tell when a casual conversation morphs into a therapy session? What stories do you keep to yourself? And what instantly transports you back to that deceptively sunny Tuesday morning?
For Nikki Stern, a writer, it might be the waft of cigar smoke. Her husband, Jim Potorti, a vice president at Marsh & McLennan who worked on the 96th floor of the north tower, enjoyed the occasional cigar. Or it might be the sight of a bicycle. Just a bicycle. Jim used to cycle. …
对作家尼基·斯特恩(Nikki Stern)来说，可能是雪茄产生的烟。她丈夫吉姆·波托尔蒂(Jim Potorti)是Marsh & McLennan的副总裁，办公室在北塔96层，他曾偶尔抽支雪茄。也可能是看见一辆自行车。只是一辆自行车。吉姆过去经常骑自行车……
“I compartmentalize,” Ms. Stern said. “But there’s a permanent leak in the compartment.”
For James Luongo, a former deputy chief of the New York Police Department, it’s driving past the now-closed Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island. He spent nearly a year on that mound, supervising a pop-up base camp where 1.8 million tons of Trade Center debris were sifted for human remains and personal effects.
对纽约警察局前副局长詹姆斯·卢昂戈(James Luongo)来说，是开车经过斯塔顿岛上现已不再使用的Fresh Kills垃圾填埋场。他在那个土堆上花了将近一年的时间，在一个临时搭建的大本营里负责仔细检查世贸中心180万吨碎片的工作，寻找遗骸和个人物品。
The problem is: Mr. Luongo lives on Staten Island.
“You’ve got to put it where it needs to be,” he said of the memories. “And not open the door more than you have to.”
“When I hear ‘Never Forget’ for 9/11, my next question is: ‘Never forget what?’” said Charles B. Stone, an associate professor of psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
“每当我听到有关9·11的‘永不忘记’时，我的下一个问题是：‘永不忘记什么？’”约翰·杰伊刑事司法学院(John Jay College of Criminal Justice)心理学副教授查尔斯·B·斯通(Charles B. Stone)说。
Never forget the international dynamics that set the stage? The homeland insecurities that followed, including the harassment of American citizens simply because they were Muslim? The months of seemingly nonstop funerals? The two decades of war and bloodshed?
“Probably the closest answer is: Never forget that it occurred,” Mr. Stone said. “But it’s the little details that will be forgotten.”
The stillness as another body was pulled from the rubble and carted away to salutes and construction helmets held over hearts. The hum of the refrigerated trucks outside the morgue. The acrid smell of loss drifting uptown through the newsroom’s open windows. The landfill. The funerals.
Of course, the call to Never Forget can also be interpreted as another honorable attempt to preserve some faint sense of the day’s many emotions. Honorable, but perhaps futile against the ceaseless rub of the passing years, the vagaries of memory.
In the first days after the Sept. 11 attacks, a team of scholars around the country set out to capture the moment’s “flashbulb” memories: the vivid, enduring mental snapshots formed at the instant of historical import, such as the bombing of Pearl Harbor or the assassination of John F. Kennedy. They asked more than 3,000 people a few questions, including: Where were you when you learned about the terrorist attacks?
在9·11袭击后的前几天里，来自全国各地的一组学者开始着手捕捉那一刻的“闪光灯”记忆，也就是在具有历史意义的瞬间，比如珍珠港被炸或约翰·F·肯尼迪(John F. Kennedy)遇刺，出现在人们脑海里的生动、持久的画面。他们向3000多人提出了几个问题，包括：得知恐怖袭击发生的时候，你在哪里？
In New York, graduate students working on the study set up tables and handed out surveys at Union Square and Washington Square, where thousands had gathered in the days and weeks after the attacks just to be with one another, moments of communal mourning also now slipping from memory.
参与这项研究的研究生们在纽约的联合广场(Union Square)和华盛顿广场(Washington Square)摆了桌子分发调查问卷。在恐怖袭击发生后的几天和几周里，上千人曾在这些广场聚集，只为了与他人在一起，这些共享的哀悼时刻如今也已从记忆中褪去。
A year later, the researchers asked the same questions of many of the same people, only to find that 40 percent of the memories had changed. A man now saying that he was in the office when he learned of the attacks might previously have said that he had been on a train.
These altered recollections were consistent with similar studies done in connection with other historical events, according to Elizabeth A. Phelps, a professor of neuroscience at Harvard University who worked on the 9/11 memory study. What distinguished the memories of Sept. 11, when compared with ordinary autobiographical memories, was the extreme confidence that people had developed in their altered remembrances, which by the first anniversary had begun to concretize.
据参与9·11记忆研究的哈佛大学(Harvard University)神经科学教授伊丽莎白·A·菲尔普斯(Elizabeth A. Phelps)说，这些改变了的记忆与其他历史事件的类似研究是一致的。与普通的自传式记忆相比，9·11记忆的不同之处在于，人们对自己改变了的记忆有极高的信心，到一周年纪念日时，这种信心已开始固化。
“You have your story and you’re sticking to it,” Dr. Phelps said.
William Hirst, a professor of psychology at the New School for Social Research, who also worked on the study, agreed. “I think what happens is they develop a narrative about their flashbulb memory,” he said. “It becomes their story.”
威廉·赫斯特(William Hirst)是社会研究新学院(New School for Social Research)的心理学教授，他也参与了9·11记忆研究。他说，“我认为，他们把自己的闪光灯记忆发展成一个叙事。成了他们的故事。”
Dr. Hirst wonders whether the changes in memory are somehow linked to a sense of identity. After all, what would it say about you as a New Yorker — as an American — if you didn’t know how you first heard about the Sept. 11 attacks? Aligning your personal narrative with a consequential moment in history may be a way of asserting that you are a part of the affected community, that you belong.
Inevitably, someday there will be no one alive with a personal narrative of Sept. 11. Inevitably, the emotional impact of the day will fade a little bit, and then a little bit more, as time transforms a visceral lived experience into a dry history lesson. This transformation has already begun; ask any high school history teacher.
But for now, for many, Sept. 11 remains a lived experience. We have our stories — our possibly altered memories — to share, or not to share, on the anniversary or any day of the year.
We might tell our stories to hold back the inevitable erasure of time. We might tell them to help us process the moment, or to explain why we grow quiet whenever we hear Bruce Springsteen’s “The Rising.”
我们也许会通过讲故事的方式，来阻挡它被时间不可避免地抹去。我们也许会用故事来帮助我们对这个时刻进行加工，或者来解释为什么每当我们听到布鲁斯·斯普林斯汀(Bruce Springsteen)的《The Rising》时会变得安静。
Then again, we might keep our stories locked in some leaky compartment, for fear of being perceived as another 9/11 narcissist, the hero of our own narrative. Or maybe we keep them to ourselves out of simple reverence.
Mr. Regan, the man who momentarily forgot, is now 64 and an executive with J.P. Morgan Chase. He has his memories, his stories. Some are funny, in that dark Irish way of coping. Some are so sobering that silence is the only response.
曾短暂失去记忆的里根现年64岁，是摩根大通(J. P. Morgan Chase)的一名高管。他有自己的回忆，自己的故事。有些带有爱尔兰式应对方法的那种黑色幽默。有些如此之严肃，让听者只能做出沉默的反应。
He avoids the anniversaries, the annual recitation of the names of the dead, and all the documentaries and books and essays the day continues to inspire. He will never visit the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, he said. “I don’t need to go back.”
Mr. Luongo, now 63, retired in March after 40 years with the N.Y.P.D., a career distinguished in part by those many months on the Staten Island landfill. More than 4,200 human remains were recovered, as well as nearly 60,000 personal items, including photographs and identification cards.
What he supervised was a village built on tragedy and aglow at night, with office trailers, a decontamination center, a mess hall, and conveyor belts waiting to receive the debris barged from Lower Manhattan. Looming stacks of crushed vehicles, including police cars and fire engines, arranged in neat, horrific rows.
All gone, like Brigadoon. Was it even real? Or is this, too, a trick of memory?
“I remember,” Mr. Luongo said. “So you get up in the morning, light a candle, say a prayer — and move on.”
Ms. Stern, who went on to write two nonfiction books and four novels, also remembers. How could she not?
Shopping for eggs in a SuperFresh market near her home in Princeton, N.J., planning to make chocolate chip cookies for her husband — “I made the best ones in the world” — when someone shouted something like: The World Trade Center has been hit!
Being notified six months later that a quarter-size piece of Jim had been identified. Writing and writing and writing every night through her grief, more than 150,000 words that no one else will ever see.
Ms. Stern has spent the last 20 years trying to get past the “uniquely suffering kind of thing,” as she puts it, and work toward building something constructive. Her involvement with the nonprofit peace-building organization Search for Common Ground is another form of remembering.
在过去20年里，斯特恩一直试图让她所说的“那种独特的痛苦”成为过去，并努力建设一些积极的东西。她参与了和平建设非营利组织“寻找共同点”(Search for Common Ground)，这是另一种形式的记忆。
“I don’t want anyone to go through this,” Ms. Stern said. “But I also don’t want to go through life saying, ‘You can’t understand what I went through.’ What’s the point? Why should they?”
The smell of a cigar. A bicycle. A drive on the Staten Island Expressway. The anniversary.
I remember camping out with the National Guard in Battery Park several days after the terrorist attacks. I remember wearing a construction helmet, carrying a clipboard and walking around as if I belonged at the restricted World Trade Center site, then known as “the Pile” and as much a burial ground as a crime scene.
I remember the messages of grief, anger and faint hope scrawled in the dust that had settled on the surrounding buildings. Scrawled with the tips of fingers. I remember being determined to chronicle these messages before the power washers came.
“The Towers Will Rise Again”
“Vernon Cherry Call Home”
“God Be With You Dana — Love, Mom”
I remember not wanting to think too hard about what comprised the dust, and not thinking at all about how harmful the dust might be for rescue and recovery workers to inhale.
I remember the dust being the color of vanilla, although my notes say it was gray. But I am certain of this: The dust was everywhere. The world was covered in it.