Sunday, September 11, 2016

Fifteen years later

I don't know that there's a lot to be said. I think one of the better memorials to those lost is Kelly Sedinger's The City of Dead Works (He usually reposts it every year but I'm writing this *early*)

It seems amazing to me it was fifteen years ago; my memories of it are that vivid. I have to stop and remind myself that my first-year students were toddlers when it happened. Which may be why we are beginning to see (mercifully few, but still) things like sales making tacky and tasteless references to the event (no links, but you probably heard about them).

Then again, I'm not sure I am any less bothered by what I refer to as "disaster porn" - the re-showing of the events, in order, every year on this day. The rather lugubrious commentary on. Yes, have a moment of silence. Yes, maybe read off a list of the names lost somewhere so people are reminded just how many people never came home to their families. But I actively dislike seeing relatives of those who died still getting microphones stuck in their faces and being asked to talk about how they "feel."

(Everyone is going to "feel" differently. I think of people I care about that I lost over the years - some more recently than that, and while I feel a twinge that they're gone, I don't have the full-on tearing up. Then again, most of the people I have lost were after a long illness or were people who were very old - they were not violently taken from me)

I don't know. I think one thing we, as a culture, are not good at are these kinds of memorials. There are some who want to be glib or want to forget. (And I admit, if I watch any television today, it will be cartoons rather than things like The History Channel). But there are others who tend, I don't know, to go too far in the other direction and want it to be a day of wailing and beating our breasts and again I am not sure about that. I think the desire to be glib offends me more but there is also a point where the extended mourning becomes offensive. (I sometimes think that a lot of those who lost their lives would tell the rest of us here to go on living our lives, to enjoy that cup of coffee on the porch or the hot shower or the lie-in on Sunday morning)

I dunno. I suppose my reaction is colored by the fact that I tend to shut down in the face of things I cannot understand, that I cannot reason out. And there's so much here that fits that: the desire to end the lives of that many fellow humans because....why? And the fact that some people chose to end their own lives quickly rather than have them taken slowly and the thought process that would lead to that choice. And the fact that there were days to weeks where people held out hope that their loved one was *somewhere* - unconscious in a hospital, so scared they ran off someplace - rather than dead. And the fact that years later, human remains were still being identified, that some people were only learning the actual, rather than assumed, fate of their loved one that much later.

Seeing a tiny bit of the coverage on the news last night (you can't avoid it without avoiding all news), I was reminded of how literally unbelievable it seemed at the time (and it still does). And there were so many things that were strange about that time - some of the more mundane things I remember were how nearly all the cable channels "signed off" for the day, put up a title card saying something like "out of respect" and stopped programming. And how my dad, not knowing what else might come, counseled me to go out and fill my car with gas, and get some bottled water - and how I waited in line for more than a half-hour to buy gas, and how some guy came down the line and asked all of us if we'd be willing to let a mother with kids in her car go ahead of us, and we all did....and how we paid inflated prices for gas (the place I went to was *slightly* inflated; I saw one station in my town that put gas up to $6 a gallon that day....I have not stopped at that gas station since even though I think they've changed management). The campus closing for the day, though I still do not know if that was "out of respect" or if it was out of concern that something more was going to happen.....because we did not know. That's the thing that strikes me now, how it was totally new territory none of us had experienced before. (Even Pearl Harbor - that was an attack on the military, not on civilians).

It occurs to me that as many strange, bad, and sad things have happened in 2016, fifteen years ago it was worse....

1 comment:

purlewe said...

I think it hit us all differently; and b'c of that the news reports about that day (that they do every year) hits us all differently as well. I think if I knew someone who had died I would be different about that day versus knowing someone tangentially.. or even.. knowing someone in the building next to the towers. Which I did and still do know. Each year something comes on the news that I did not know and makes it a little better. (eases the sadness in my heart a little more?) Yesterday it was an 11 minute video of the boats that rescued the people off of lower Manhattan. Did you know that they rescued more people in 9 hrs than the total of people moved by boat for Dunkirk in 9 days? A couple years ago it was a story about a little town in Newfoundland that all the international flights were directed to, and how people in that small town welcomed those travelers for the days that there were no flights. Or that Steve Buscemi worked as a firefighter in the days after 9/11 b'c he had been one before he was an actor. I still find the hope in those stories. B'c they aren't well known. It is those stories that still give me hope. But it is true.. finding those stories are hard when the grief is still so large for that day. And I doubt that we will have a clear picture of it until it is farther behind us. It is just too close and too fresh.