La La How The Life Goes On

9/11 for the Adults in the Room

Posted on: September 10, 2011

If you were in New York, DC, or Pennsylvania on September 11th, I will be glad to listen to your 9/11 Story. If you are close to anyone directly involved in the attacks, be it victims, responders, military now serving as a result, I will be glad to listen to your 9/11 Story. But if you watched on TV from, say, Wyoming, I have to be the asshole who says No Thanks.

I’m not attempting to be frivolous, flippant or mean. I simply wish for perspective in the midst of this anniversary. Yes, 9/11 was a seminal moment for every American. Yes, it changed everything. None of our lives will ever be the same.

But that does not mean your story needs to be told.

I say this not to diminish the fear we all felt on that day, but to emphasize the importance of those who actually lived–and died–that fear. The overwhelming media focus on the gruesome details, the need to replay the impacts over and over, the trafficking in what I can only call Suffering Porn truly irritates me because I feel that it reduces every single victim to nothing more than the circumstances of their death. It almost diminishes the magnitude of the attack in its obsession with the truly horrifying details. I witnessed both CNN and Fox News doing entire segments on their own reporters’ feelings about having covered the stories! It is both breathtaking arrogance and cause to wonder whether the news channels are in a race to the bottom under the guise of memorializing the dead. It treats the anniversary of the deadliest attack on American soil with a creepy and inappropriate nostalgia, a word and practice we usually reserve for good memories. It illustrates the ugly intersection where remembrance meets voyeurism.

Which directly relates to my discomfort with everyone having a 9/11 Story.

You know what, friends? We all had our own 9/11 experiences, but only certain people have, as a result, 9/11 Stories. I cringe whenever I hear someone solemnly tell me their traumatic 9/11 story from their living room in Santa Monica, because I perceive it as a perhaps unconscious attempt to share in an event that many many others would give anything to not have shared in at all. It hints at a loss of perspective in understanding that terrible day’s consequences. More importantly, it demeans those who suffered to act as if our experience of the tragedy is equal to their involvement in it.

It wasn’t, it isn’t, and we shouldn’t want it to be. Forget our own stories and focus instead on those who rushed in when all others were rushing out. Focus on those who said final words of love to their families before taking back their plane. Focus on those who still have no body to mourn over, 10 years later. Focus on the myriad stories, large and small, of people, famous and unknown, who in the darkest hour of our recent history, showed us all the true meaning of the American spirit.

THAT is the story of 9/11 I want to hear.

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1 Response to "9/11 for the Adults in the Room"

And again, perfection. It’s hard to hear because it is so easy to want to focus on the impact this had on ourselves as individuals. There is real truth in the feelings we have that this changed things for all of us. It is true that this event was traumatic for everyone. What is true is not always what is important. Today and every time we remember, we need to keep our focus on the important.

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