Sunday, September 11, 2011

Moving On

This probably won't be a popular post.

Today is the ten-year anniversary of arguably the worst day in American history, 9/11/01. In light of this, there have been a hundred tributes, from the President and First Lady walking through the field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania where Flight 93 crashed, to celebrity-laden TV specials, to over-the-top on-field ceremonies at stadiums across the country. And through it all, I can't help but wonder if I'm the only one in the world who is absolutely appalled by it.

Nearly 3,000 human beings lost their lives that day, and before the dust settled, there were pins and patches and logos meant to "commemorate" the terrible event. For a particularly embarrassing and uncomfortable time, the media couldn't quite decide between "9/11" and "9-1-1", the latter having an obvious and cruel double-meaning. It's been an industry virtually since Day One, as outlets have not stopped trying to out-Remember each other, with the aid of increasingly ridiculous graphics and melodramatic vignettes. It's as though these producers sit around in an office all day sifting through pictures of people looking sad and lost in the chaos. And for what?

I understand and appreciate the memorial built on the original site. I think it's a bit vulgar to make a monument of the footprints left by the buildings, but I get it. What I don't get is the need to rub the horrific images in our face all day every day for weeks and months leading up to today, and today most of all. I understand the desire to remember the dead, for it is in the memories of others that we live on, but there is a difference between remembering and constantly being reminded.

My grandfather died when I was a baby. My mother chooses to remember him by sharing stories of him--his life, his loves--with us. It's how she copes and how she honors him. We do not now, nor have we ever, commemorated his death. The day he died was one of the darkest in my mother's life, and she, like any normal person, remembers the man that was her father, not the heart attack that killed him. We don't wear pins over our hearts or shine a spotlight on his seat at the dinner table.

It's all too much. I ran out to the store today to grab a couple of liters of soda for the football games, and I was tempted to wish the clerk a "Happy 9/11", not because I'm some sadistic prick, but because the farce this yearly occasion has become borders on celebration.

I don't think I have any stupid or intellectually dishonest followers, so I will speak plainly of those who would call my complaints crass or without compassion or, god forbid, unpatriotic: Please try to get it through your tiny brain that I was just as devastated as you were on 9/11. I am not some young flag-burner with an instinctual anti-establishment bent. I'm every bit as American as you. It's just that I find these "memorials" to be soulless rating grabs at best, and grotesque tragedy-worship at worst.

9/11 isn't a day to commemorate. It isn't a day to remember, it's a day to forget, to put behind us forever. We should celebrate the efforts of the first responders who selflessly gave their lives, the blessed charities that make lives easier on the families left behind by the victims of the attacks, the average citizens who sacrificed just because it was the right thing to do. That's what we should remember, not the tragedy itself.

I hope someday we get our priorities right.


  1. I like your conclusion: "That's what we should remember, not the tragedy itself." But as with just about everything, the media/pop culture has a delightful way of kicking around the dead.

  2. Exactly. I mean, do you think people who actually lost friends and family that day want to see those towers collapsing over and over again? If your mom died in a car accident, would you want the footage of that played on nineteen networks on the anniversary each year?

    I was sickened that the media branded it before the dead were even pulled from the rubble. I just hate our mass media culture.

  3. Not being an American, I'm not really quialified to comment, I guess. But I get what you're saying. From over here in the UK, the USA sometimes seems very familiar but sometimes very alien.

    I'm glad the day passed by peacefully.

  4. I think part of the problem is that we really don't know how to handle this. We've never had anything touch our shores before. I mean, yes, Pearl Harbor happened a couple of generations ago, but it wasn't the same thing.

    I think people assume they have to do this, with the over-the-top memorials and constant reminders. I think they do it because they've never seen anything like it.

    And I agree that it's good the day went by without any shenanigans.