You may think of history as a collection of hard facts, but much of our view of historical events is shaped by the memories of the people who lived them. As word of Bin Laden’s death spread, I thought about all of the people who might have written personal accounts of 9/11—everyone from decision makers like President George W. Bush to people who lost family members that day, first responders who survived and ordinary folks stunned by what had taken place. If you type “9/11 memoirs??? into the Google search engine, you’ll come up with about 80 pages of relevant links. Perhaps you’re including that day in your own memoirs.
When we write down how something momentous affected us, our collective memories create a narrative that future generations can access to get a feeling for the broad impact. A page at memoryarchive.org offers 200 snippets of memory inspired by 9/11. Reading one after another, you get a good idea of how people learned about what was going on that day and how they reacted.
No matter what you decide to include in your memoirs, your writing becomes part of the historical record. That’s another good reason to write and perhaps publish your life story, because then your voice contributes to the ever-changing description of the landscape of the time. Your life is unique, but your surroundings are common to many people’s stories. It’s how you manage them that makes you an interesting person.