Home Top News Special Episode: What Does It Mean to ‘Never Forget’?

Special Episode: What Does It Mean to ‘Never Forget’?

Two planes hijacked by Al Qaeda pierced the north and south towers of the World Trade Center. A third slammed into the Pentagon in Arlington, Va. A fourth crashed 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?

In a study of more than 3,000 people, 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.

William Hirst, a professor of psychology at the New School for Social Research, wondered 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?

Dan Barry, a longtime Times reporter, remembered “the acrid smell of loss drifting uptown through the newsroom’s open windows. The landfill. The funerals.” Today, he shares an essay about the effects of time on those memories.


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Additional production for this story was contributed by Emma Kehlbeck, Parin Behrooz, Carson Leigh Brown, Anna Diamond, Elena Hecht, Desiree Ibekwe, Tanya Perez, Marion Lozano, Corey Schreppel, Margaret Willison and Kate Winslett. Special thanks to Mike Benoist, Sam Dolnick, Laura Kim, Julia Simon, Lisa Tobin, Blake Wilson and Ryan Wegner.



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