Memory is a strange thing. The things the mind chooses to remember and things it chooses to forget. And all of memory is a series of fragments; just pieces we put together or pull apart. Some times we retain them like an archived video, and we can play a moment like a scene, recalling every fine detail, every word spoken, every scent. And then there are other times when moments fade from memory, and we spend a lifetime trying to find the pieces once again; never knowing if we’ll ever get them back again. There are things I did last week that, for the life of me, I can’t remember. And then there are moments from years past that are burned in to my mind.
November ninth is one of those moments.
I don’t think anyone who has never lived outside Jordan can truly understand the sheer power of nostalgia. Nostalgia to a country; to a place to something so intangible. There are moments when it wraps around you so tight it can be suffocating. The experience may not be the same for everyone, but I know for a fact that many have felt it. I’ve had whole discussions about nostalgia with fellow students from what feels like a lifetime ago. Some discussions are so vivid you can retrace every street of Amman with a fellow Jordanian you just happen to run in to somewhere out there. A stranger. But not really.
And that kind of nostalgia finds a potent way of climaxing when something like November ninth takes place. It can be so bad that you’ll want to do nothing but get on a plane and come home.
So, if you’re like me, the worst place you could possibly be on a day like November ninth is oceans away from Amman; in an airport.
The worst thing you could possibly see are familiar buildings on fire, from a television screen in an airport cafe.
What I remember is confusion. Scatters and crumbs of news painted CNN screens. And you will never be as beholden to a piece of technology as you are right now; literally glued to that screen, straining to hear news reports, reading every word that scrolls across the ticker at the bottom. And nothing in the world is important right now. Absolutely nothing.
My parents, who were coming to visit me in Toronto had their plane diverted. A three hour delay. And that was probably the longest three hours of my life.
I remember scarlet uniforms of the airport luggage handlers – fellow Arabs who gathered around me by a television screen. I remember rare pictures by Sabri Hakim flashing on the screen and probably the only time the words “Jordanian blogger” have ever graced a CNN screen.
I remember thinking that one day I will remember this all as one of the saddest moments in my life. I remember wondering if anyone I knew was amongst the victims. I remember not having any money to phone home. I remember thinking the lines would be busy anyway. I remember calculating time zones in my head. I remember thinking of ways to break the news to my parents who were still circling Toronto. I remember a thunderstorm outside.
And I remember thinking that the nostalgia, that longing for home, could not be worse. There was no way that an emotion this powerful could be this physically inhibiting. Not worse than this. It wasn’t possible. And I remember being proven wrong, because if there is one moment – one day worth being in Amman for, it was the very next day when the streets flooded with people. There was this sense of unity that I have never experienced in this country, and it was so powerful that I, and perhaps many others, felt it from oceans away.
And I remember thinking, this will be forgotten some day. This feeling right now, this sense of unity will be forgotten. It will fade like a memory one day and we will spend the rest of our lives trying to recall it; trying to find those pieces once again.
Wondering if we’ll ever get them back again.
And I remember thinking that it didn’t matter right then and there. I remember thinking that the forgetting wasn’t as important as the remembering, at least in that particular moment. And so, from oceans away, I tried to soak up every little detail.
And burned it in to my mind.
Dedicated to the fallen but not forgotten citizens