(CNN)That plea. That demand. Never Forget. It's not meant for us. Because we can't forget. We are haunted by what we remember, 20 years later and likely 20 years from now.
As if I don't remember the moment I finally knew that my father was never coming home. Or I don't remember the sound of my sister's cries down the hall when that moment came for her. Or the day we told my grandparents that there was no one left to be rescued, that their son was somewhere in that pile of rubble and yet he wasn't there at all. The terrible sound of my grandfather's voice as he sobbed, "My baby. My baby" about his 52-year-old son. The wordless wails my grandmother made as she lay on my sister's shoulder.
As if each year, when the calendar slowly moves toward September, the little things -- like the slight chill of a fall breeze or the scent of the leaves at my feet -- don't settle in my stomach, hard and knotted. As if my body doesn't remember. Muscle memory of grief.
As if I can't still hear the radio DJ, yelling in horror when the second plane hit. As if I don't remember swerving my car off the busy street, climbing out on shaky ground, wanting only to bend over and purge, to get the feeling out of me and rid myself of what it would do.
As if I don't remember the way the house was flooded with people. How some swept through the door with a purpose and others dragged their feet, reality already setting into their eyes and sagging mouths.
As if I could forget how small my mother looked in their bed that night, drugged into sleep after hours of agony, curled up like a tiny fetus, lost in the vast bed he'd slept in just the night before.
How easy the tears fell, how I'd never cried so seamlessly before, without pause and without words, only the salty water sliding down my cheeks, while I prayed it was all for naught, that he'd be home before my next lament.
As if a year later, I didn't feel my father in my bones as I stepped onto Ground Zero. As if it didn't feel as though every soul that died there, that every bit of pain and horror they faced and every word they wanted to say before they died, was in the wind itself, thrashing and whirling, wrapping itself around us and inside us.
As if I could ever forget the way it felt to feel them inside me.