To begin with, my cousin was there, so this is more than a news event to me. She was in building number seven of the World Trade Center on 9/11. She could have easily been in either of the two towers that day, since traveling between the various buildings in the World Trade Center complex was part of her everyday life. Thankfully, on that day, she was in building seven, which eventually did collapse, but unlike the two towers, everyone was able to get away.
I’ve heard the stories of that day from her and they still resonate. When the first plane hit, she was at her desk and like the rest of us, had no idea what happened. Everyone evacuated the building and they were horrified to see the damage outside. My cousin chose to get away from it all as quickly as possible, so by the time the second plane hit, she was well on her way home. Many of her co-workers stayed behind transfixed by the horrors of that day, and many of them were left permanently scarred by what they saw.
Those of us who only saw the events that took place on 9/11 on television, were undoubtedly upset about what we saw, but obviously, nothing can compare to seeing it firsthand. This is a big reason why I won’t be watching any of the television specials or events commemorating the tenth anniversary of 9/11. If you remember, at the time, there was no escaping the footage of the planes crashing into the towers or the images of workers either running through the streets covered in dust or falling to their deaths.
I’m sure like many of you, at first I couldn’t stop looking at the news footage because it all seemed so unreal. Then, it began to feel like the media wasn’t going to let us escape the constant onslaught of more and more upsetting stories and images. What made me finally stop looking, was when a special about 9/11 not only showed people falling from windows, but some images of them after they landed. That was it. I couldn’t look anymore; not because I didn’t care, but because I realized that it was wrong for the media to show those images and I didn’t want to contribute to their for ratings by watching them. I’ve had friends in media, and let me tell you, some of them don’t really know when to stop to get the story out. I had a friend who thought it was important that I see the images of Daniel Pearl having his cut sawed off. Needless to say, I let them know what I thought of that and that, in my opinion, this is the same mentality behind showing some of the more horrific images of 9/11. Yes, it is important to get the story out, but at what cost, and more importantly why? Outside of upsetting your audience, what is the point? Traumatizing viewers isn’t the same as informing them. For me, I can’t watch anymore of it and I don’t want to ever become desensitized to what I see. This is the same reason why I’ve only watched, “Schindler’s List,” twice. I never want to see the little girl in the red coat and not be deeply affected. Some of the images of 9/11 are burned forever in my memory. There is no reason to go back; they are right here.
The other reason I’m not taking part, is because of the way victims of 9/11 have been portrayed. These were people from all facets of life, with varying belief systems, ethnicities and cultures. They were not all flag waving, apple eating Americans; they were not even all Americans nor were all they Christians. They were the truest representation of the great melting pot that America is and should be.
The American way of life, includes freedoms of thought, religion and speech, yet many people paint the victims of 9/11 with the same broad brush. Yes, there were some flag-waving Christians who died that day, but there were also other Christians, like Jehovah’s Witnesses, who don’t salute the flag, who were among the dead. There were also Buddhists, Jews and yes Muslims; yet you will see and hear very little, if anything, about them on any news show, televised event or made-for-TV movie.
I recently saw a tribute to 9/11 at the New York State Fair, and beside every name of those who died on that day, was a cross. I’m sorry, but to me, that is not honoring those who died, but because they died on 9/11, their lives and their stories have been changed from truth to what fits someone else’s idea of who they were, and to me, that is wrong.
Finally, the last reason why I won’t be participating in 9/11 events, is because there has been a trivializing of what happened that day that I find disturbing. People died, families were destroyed, others were left to rebuild their lives without those they loved. The wounds of that day continue amidst that loss and the loss of so many lives in the war since. In the wake of all this tragedy, there are aps where users can send a e-greeting and games where they can see if they can get of the buildings before they fall.
This is a sad testament to us as a society, but of course, we are a society of reality TV and games depicting various real-life wars where men, women and children lost their lives; so is it any wonder that there would be games about 9/11?
Some can dismiss this because the bottom line is the bottom line, after all, and death is part of life, but I refuse to do so. It’s not OK and I wish that saying so could make a difference, but as long as there are people who are willing to spend money to play games such as these, there is no reason to believe that developers won’t continue making them. What is especially sad about these games, is that those who play them will become desensitized to the events of 9/11 and that is a tragedy.
In the end, we each have to find our own ways to commemorate the events of 9/11. If watching a news show, televised event or made-for-TV movie, feels like the right choice to you, then by all means do that. You will find no judgment here. Instead, I will think about my cousin and her co-workers, and remain forever grateful, that she was able to get away.
Right Before, A Poem for 9/11 by Rachel Blackbirdsong
Right before….The first plane hit
It was 8:45 a.m.
They were thinking
Going to the bathroom
Checking the clock
Getting to work late
Wondering how their children were doing at school
Thinking about who they’d like to have lunch with
Thinking about the dinner they’d have that night
Digesting their breakfast
Trying to meet a deadline
Looking out the window
Making a deal
Scratching their knee
Licking an envelope
Dictating a message
Checking over their schedule for the day
Making a doctor’s appointment
Dealing with a grumpy boss
Listening to office gossip
Flexing their toes
Planning their next vacation
Wondering how many sick days they have left for the year
Biting their lip
Thinking about their husband’s/wife’s/children’s smile
Exhausted from lack of sleep
Exhausted from too much sleep
Wondering if they/their spouse/mate/lover/children were coming down with a cold
Worrying about their job
Worrying that their boss didn’t like their last report
Dialing a phone
Staring blankly at a wall
Ready for the weekend even though it’s only Tuesday
Taking this day for granted as they/you/me/us had done so many times before
In a split second of nothingness
Everything was as it had always been
As it would/should/could always be
Until the minute hand struck 8:46 a.m.