It seems like this year it’s a bit hipper than ever to poo-poo the media’s numerous maudlin remembrances of 9/11. We lived it, we remember it, and we don’t need to read endless stories about it.
I don’t know. I kind of do. I have, since that 2001 Tuesday, felt an unhealthy obsession with the attacks, one that for whatever reason motivates me to read every 9/11-related article I come across. I was a senior in college in 2001, and that was the first day of the school year when I turned on CNN right after my shower; I was (and am!) a news junkie, but hadn’t gotten into the news-watching habit yet that school year.
I saw the first report on CNN of a plane hitting the tower. I sat on the futon that was my bed all day watching that 13” TV, taking notes—for whatever reason—on each report that CNN issued. (A car bomb at the State Department! The Mall is on fire! A fifth plane! A sixth plane!) I watched as AIM Away Messages (the Twitter of the day) were updated throughout the day: “Nothing will ever be the same.” “This means war.” “What is going on?!” “TURN ON YOUR TV RIGHT NOW.
I read the 9/11 Report, twice. I kept the post-9/11 issues of Newsweek.
I fear death. I have kids, and I want to see them—and their kids—grow old, and the knowledge that we’ll all die some day depresses me if I think about it too much. I want to die of old age. I want to die and understand, at least on a pragmatic level, why it’s happening.
Most of the folks who died on 9/11 had no idea what the hell was going on. The passengers on United 93 knew that the nation was under attack, and took action—but still, they didn’t really know what was happening. They didn’t know how many more attacks were coming.
I object to every one of the victims’ deaths, of course, but I object even more strongly because they simply didn’t know what killed them, who killed them, and why.
So I read the endless 9/11 tributes, individual stories of survivors and the dead alike, endlessly. It’s a sick addiction. I know—again, pragmatically at least—why they died, and who did it, and what the hell was going on. So I read about them, for them.
I don’t think it helps them, of course. But it helps me a bit.
I skipped very, very few classes in college. Before Brandeis shut down, I called in to the professor of my next class and said I wasn’t coming in. The class? “War and the Possibilities of Peace.”
My wife gets anxious on September 11th. I don’t. We’re close to New York, but not super close. Dirty bombs are actually far less dangerous than people think, because they don’t really spread lethal amounts of radiation.
One key goal of terrorism is to cause terror. I decline to be afraid on 9/11 anniversaries, on airplanes, or in Times Square. I definitely don’t want to get killed by a terrorist’s act, but there’s no way in hell that I’m going to give them the courtesy of worrying about it.
I say, keep the 9/11 tributes coming. It’s no fun to read about the professional and amateur heroes, the dead, and the guilt-ridded living. It’s work. It strengthens my resolve that doesn’t need strengthening, and it somehow inspires me to keep working each day to give my own kids as much hope and optimism and love for life and people as I can.