Memory becomes History

I’m writing this on the 11th anniversary of 911. I remember the summer before it happened when I went to pick up my parents at the airport, and you could still walk up to the gate to meet them.

I went to the airport that day with my 18-month-old son who, though he was alive when 911 happened, will never remember it. It will be history to him, just like the assassination of JFK is no more than history to me.

A funny thing happened today at work. A crowd of visitors came to the KPBS newsroom. Our general manager often gives tours to big donors. But this was a group of German college-age students, who were studying journalism.

I’m situated in the newsroom right next to the elevator, so when visitors arrive I’m the first thing they see. I don’t know if this was done by mistake or design. But it means I regularly schmooze with visitors and sometimes people ask me where the men’s room is.

So I told the German kids I used to live there and I’d just been to Hamburg for a visit. And I talked a little shop, since that’s what their instructor wanted me to do.

The instructor then asked me if there were any other places in San Diego they should visit, and I told them to go to the Mexican border to see our wall. It’s just like the wall they used to have in Germany, dividing east from west, though our wall divides Americans from Mexicans.

In fact, I told them I distinctly remember seeing the Berlin Wall, and I asked if any of them remembered seeing it. The students looked at me for a while before one said that most of them weren’t born yet when the Berlin Wall came down.

Memory to me. History to them.

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