September 11, 2003

The Essence of a Physical Memory

I walked outside my office, exactly as I’d done two years ago. Back then, I was running to retrieve my daughter from her daycare on the National Mall. News reports of fires at the State Department and smoke rising over the Potomac pushed me towards her.

I was met with throngs of pedestrians and gridlock. Today, as I reached the sidewalk, traffic was normal but a familiar feeling slapped me. I tripped, banking 90 degrees as I neared the pavement. It wasn’t an emotional flashback but a strong physical one: a deja vu that was more powerful than any 9/11 remembrance I had had of the events that day.

The sun was in the same position in the sky and the weather was identical: clear blue and cloudless. The temperature was moderate and comfortable: an astronomical codex imprinted upon my body. I remembered how pleasant the humidity had been two years ago. It was as beautiful then as it was now. The sun had risen just high enough to heat the front of the building. Its radiance was warm and comforting.

Yet the agreeable weather fought my physical recollection. I wasn’t reliving the events, just the feeling of being there, in the same time and place once again.

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