11 September 2002
Since every radio station, every television station, and every
newspaper and magazine in the country will be filled with images of the tragedies that
occurred on 9/11, and since the media has spent the last six months preparing for how they
were going to deal with "the day" when it arrived, I feel that I must be honest
with how I'm feeling.
This morning I sat and watched coverage of the things that have
taken place over the past year and are still taking place today--the fund drives for the
survivors of the tragedy, in some cases amounting to thousands, even millions of dollars.
An entire town centered on making food on a daily basis to bring to those families who
lost loved ones in the tragedy. I've listened to psychiatrists give advice on how to deal
with kids who might be upset by seeing the endless replaying of the events of the day (the
easiest way would be not to replay them for the bazillionth time. Is there any person in
this country one year after 9/11 who does not know what happened, who does not have
the scenes etched into his/her brain for years and years to come?)
I have to admit that as I watched the tributes to the survivors, my
thoughts were not of them, but of perhaps a young widow sitting in one of those towns
whose citizens are bending over backwards to care for the survivors. Perhaps she has a
couple of kids, and perhaps her husband was killed in an auto accident the week before the
planes ran into the World Trade Center towers. I wondered how this woman, struggling to
make ends meet without her husband's salary, trying to raise two fatherless children, is
feeling watching her town come out in force to help those whose loved ones died on 9/11.
The incredible outpouring of help, support, money, and other
tangible forms of aid which have been heaped on (some of) the survivors comes out of the
enormity of the tragedy, our frustration, our anger, our sense of helplessness, and our
desire to do something, even if it's only sending a check to help the survivors.
It's Americans at their best.
We have made larger than life heroes of all the victims of the
tragedy, whether in an office building, or in a plane. And in truth, there were many
heroes that day. And many, many of those heroes never made it home.
But they weren't all heroes. That would be an impossibility. Some
real jerks died that day. The law of averages tells me that. Yet tomorrow they
will all, each and every one of them, be remembered as heroic figures who died in the
worst attack this country has ever known.
I would like to think that we, as a nation, have taken the events of
9/11 and used them as an opportunity to examine our inner souls, to think about how we
interact with people--all people, not just those whose loved ones perished a year ago.
I would like to think that we as a nation have become more sensitive
to suffering around us. I would like to think that we have learned the value of reaching
out to all people in pain. I would like to think that we have learned the importance of
speaking our feelings and not leaving things unsaid. I hope these are the lessons we take
away from the rubble of Ground Zero and not that we are so focused on the victims of this
particular tragedy, enormous as it is, that we overlook the everyday tragedies, the
I would hope that this is the legacy of the heroes of 9/11,
and not that we will spend the next few decades waving flags and endlessly reliving the
tragedy on television, in magazines, in books, hiding in our houses terrified that another
plane is going to come hurtling down into our back yards. I would hope that we take the
opportunity to reach out to someone in pain, whether or not they have any connection to
the terrorist attacks.
If endlessly remembering this tragedy has turned us into a more
caring nation, then we will have grown in a good way. But I have this sad feeling that
collectively as a nation (and perhaps because it's good for ratings) we are more about
wallowing in the memories of the tragedy, replaying the pain and suffering, looking back
instead of looking forward.
For a wonderful commentary on the anniversary of 9/11, read this entry in
"Baker Street" and for how a lot of us are feeling about media overload, read Haggie's entry.