Part of me thought that I could just ignore the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Part of me wants to. Not because it wasn’t a tragedy, not because it wasn’t a moment I’ll remember forever, and not because it forever changed my life as a human and as an American.
Rather, I want to ignore the 10th anniversary of 9/11 because of this sort of thing….
9/11 “Americana” themed decorations for your home, courtesy of iParty, including a 9-11 sign where the 11 is made of the silhouette of the twin towers
Political ad by Herman Cain, a Republican Presidential hopeful who was busy sitting on his ass as a retired CEO in the South on 9/11 and had nothing to do with the 9/11, the healing process, or the recovery
The reason I’m upset is that this is so typically American….complete, utter, crass commercialization and exploitation of an international tragedy for monetary gain, political advantage, and the highest possible television ratings. In short, trying to make the best tragedy porn for personal gain.
In general, I’m fairly proud to be an American. I love that I can have the right, the obligation to criticize my government. That I CAN speak that criticism without fear of reprisal or jail. I love Target, New Orleans Jazz, trolley cars in San Francisco, Disney, McDonald’s and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I love to drive and equate a car with freedom. I often think bigger is better. I am thrilled to be from Massachusetts; home of the American Revolution, the first public library and public school, MIT, the Red Sox, and the first state to legalize gay marriage. I want my daughters to share that heritage.
I also love New York with all my heart (except the Yankees…I *am* a BoSox fan, after all–side note for non-Americans; the NY/Boston baseball rivalry is old and taken quite seriously by fans). I’ve been lucky enough to live in New York for a time–July of 2002 until January of 2003.
Yes, I remember where I was on 9/11. But you know what? Apart from my friends and I imagine my daughters, who will one day have to ask me for a school project (much as I was told to ask my parents where they were when they learned JFK was shot), no one cares.
What I want to share is where I was on the FIRST anniversary of 9/11. I was living in New York City, in Queens. I woke up the morning of 9/11/02 when my clock radio began to blare. But instead of Z100’s normal pop, I heard a list of names being called out. I turned on the tv, where the same list continued to be read. Name after name of those taken before their time. Somberly, I showered. I dressed. I drove to the subway, and my car’s radio continued the list of names I couldn’t quite bear to stop hearing. I rode the subway, noticing my fellow passengers all seemed equally subdued. There was no swearing, no one playing their discman too loudly, no one gossiping with a friend. Just a subway car of strangers all seemingly lost in their own thoughts. I got out at my normal stop just before Times Square, where I worked for a Broadway ticket discounter.
Times Square, almost always busting and busy, was practically a ghost town. When I heard a cab hit their horn, and the noise was jarring, rather than fading into the cacophony that normally was any city block in Manhattan. The huge tv screen the dominates one end of Times Square continued to show the reading of names, flashing each name at the bottom of the screen as it was read. This was at least two hours since I had gotten up.
I don’t know how long it takes to read over 3,000 names. But I know how hearing those names made me feel…of the sadness I felt that day.
It was an honest kind of grief. I had grown up watching NYC on television, reading about it in books and dreaming of visiting it. I did not live in New York on 9/11, but I came to know those who did, who did lose loved ones.
On that first anniversary, I didn’t feel like I was being sold pre-packaged loss or grief.
I’ve spent the last week hearing “personal stories” of 9/11 widows. I passed a people magazine cover emblazoned with “9/11 children”…making money off the stories of children whose mother’s were pregnant with them on 9/11 and who lost fathers that day. There are countless new items, made for tv movies, and “documentaries” competing for the highest ratings. Every time I turn on the news or check a news related website I can’t escape 9/11. I can’t even go into iParty for Halloween decorations without them trying to sell me some red, white and blue grief tailor made for my home.
The 10th anniversary of 9/11 does deserve remembrance. But not in this commercial, spoon-fed, pre-digested for the masses way.
I hate that my dominant thought on this anniversary is that I wish I were anywhere but in the US. Where I could grieve without being sold a bill of goods, a political agenda, or a big heaping serving of nausea at the way my country is defiling its own memory.
Never forget? As if I ever could.