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14 March 2002

Sarah, of Everyday Rebellions, claims she’s she’s the most awful person on earth for her reaction to the 6 month anniversary of 9/11. I’m about to prove her wrong. She’s not the most awful person, I am.

As I have pointed out over and over in these pages, I’m a big (but getting smaller :) ) marshmallow with the emotional control of a wet dishrag, someone who cries at supermarket openings and Hallmark Card commercials.

It will therefore come as a surprise–as it does to me–that am not as moved about the six month anniversary of the events of 9/11 as the rest of the country is.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot. It was a tragedy of monumental proportions, the like of which I have not seen in my lifetime and pray I will never see again. The loss of human life, the pain and suffering endured by thousands of people, the shock that the country has experienced... I understand it all intellectually. I just can’t take it all in emotionally.

I’m beginning to realize the role of the media in our emotional reaction to events, and feel that my inability to connect on a deep emotional level to the tragedy is a result of being in England when it all happened.

We were checking into our hotel in London when we heard the news, and we managed to get onto CNN before the buildings fell. We were glued to the television. This hotel had American coverage, American reporters, American television. I couldn’t pull myself away. I sat in the room and cried as I watched the horror unfolding.

That night we met American friends for dinner. On our way to dinner, I walked around London in a daze, desperately wanting to connect with other Americans, and unsettled by the fact that life in London appeared to be going on as if nothing had happened. The impact had not hit Londoners (as it did by day #2) on the same level as it had me. You got the feeling that they reacted the way we react here when there is a major earthquake with terrible loss of life half a world away. It’s a terrible thing, but it doesn’t affect your day to day life.

By the time the "human interest stories," those things which grab your heart and bond you with the people who have been directly affected were being shown on American television, we had changed hotels and were now in a place which had no American stations. We were getting all our news from the BBC. The story still topped all the news broadcasts, but where Americans were grieving together, watching the shock and the pain on the faces of people in New York, seeing the candlelight vigils (perhaps participating in candlelight vigils), watching the angst on the faces of loved ones waiting for news of the people who were buried in the rubble, seeing the growing tributes on the fences all over town, listening to one story after another, in London we were hearing the political side of things. Talking heads talking. Tony Blair being wonderful. And eventually the faces of the British who had lost their lives.

The shock and horror was there, but the personal connection was not.

As the pain deepened in the United States and the seeds of patriotism began to take root and blossom into flags being unfurled all across the nation, we were in Orkney, a place so removed from the tragedy that it didn’t even make the front page headlines of the local newspaper.

By the time we returned home, I began to realize that we’d had a "tragedy bypass." We grieved on an intellectual level, but we were not inundated by the constant media coverage of the emotional side of it, and we couldn’t relate.  We had missed that chapter.

Since 9/11, people have talked about how the event changed them. People are more attached to each other. Families cling together. People remember to connect with other people, to tell the people they love how they feel about each other. For many people, 9/11 was the first look at their own mortality, and they feel life will never be the same.

We came in touch with our mortality years ago. The day David ran into a lamp post, this family learned the fragility of life, the importance of saying all those important things, the need to bond together. We accepted that life can end in a blink and we are not all going to die of old age.

And so 9/11 did not change my life. Unless it changed by observing the fact that almost everyone around me seems to have learned the message we learned so long ago.

I watch the coverage of the 6 month anniversary and I am once again shocked and horrified, and feel sadness for the survivors. But I can’t find that place in the pit of my stomach that most other Americans, who were here for it all, are experiencing.

And I suppose that really does make me a cold, heartless bitch.


Quote of the Day

It is my belief that whereas the twentieth century has been a century of war and untold suffering, the twenty-first century should be one of peace and dialogue.

--Dalai Lama
(boy was HE wrong!)

One Year Ago

In yer Dreams

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