7:20 a.m. here on September 11, 2011. The crescendo of the September 11 commemoration. Last Monday, as the press ramped up so that attack articles and broadcasting were impossible to miss, I asked myself whether the extensive media coverage was necessary. Everything that happened before today happened a long time ago, they say. Certainly the people who were close to those who died or who still suffer from the tragedy always will grieve in ways major and minor. But the rest of us? And out here on the other side of the continent?
How genuine is our connection to the disaster? We don’t seem to be particularly adept at connecting and caring outside our narrow lives these days. Anybody feeling sorrow for the people who died in Irene – which I remind you was two short weeks ago? Mourning the thousands of soldiers and civilians who died and are dying or were maimed and are being maimed in our wars since 2001? Taking action against the world’s too many injustices affecting literally hundreds of millions? How about being willing to pay an extra penny in sales tax to support social services? Not really. So what is this purported shared September 11 trauma? A cynic would note that the anniversary conveniently falls during the dog days of all media programming, before the start of the new cable television season, the next American Idol and X Factor, the return of professional football and the baseball playoffs. September 11 programming brings dignity to reality television. It all made me pretty crabby, as one more thing in a long list of crabbiness-inducing things (you have your own list, I am certain).
I perked up a bit as commemoration weekend approached when I noticed that in elevators and in any manner of a line people were talking – about where they were on September 11. You could hear the remnants of shock in their voices. The emotion didn’t seem feigned or artificially whipped up by the media coverage.
This morning imagine my surprise to have a clutch of bagpipers outside my window, playing in that mournful way bagpipers do. I live within sight of a fire station (my polling place, actually) and the trucks are pulling out. The station’s many firefighters are in the street, in dress uniforms. Apparently there is a local acknowledgement of the September 11 fire fighters and other first responders. It is beyond lovely and, imagine my surprise, beyond sad. I lived in New York in an apartment on Greenwich and Chambers for a few wonderful years. I was in the World Trade Center all the time because my gym was there. I flew to the New York as soon as I could book a flight after the attacks to check on it. To be a responder. I had forgotten that until this morning.
So I realize the September 11 tragedy is a web that binds even the far-flung. The loss of life, promise, and opportunity. The disproportionate loss of privacy and freedoms. The hateful and counterproductive intolerance that grips us. Harm that can no more be quantified than the loss directly caused by the attacks.
These annual commemorations will continue, no doubt. Let’s hope at some point the harm is addressed and redressed. This will take courage, engaged citizens, and intelligent, compassionate government. One more reason to vote.
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