Mourning in America

Samuel Hayim Brody

"September 11th is rapidly approaching." Echoing every major media outlet in America, one of my professors uttered this sentence the other day, and it struck me as incredibly odd. We've gotten so accustomed over the past year to thinking of "September 11th" as the name of an event, not as a date that to say that "September 11th is coming up" is almost like saying "Pearl Harbor is next week," or "What will you be doing next Hiroshima?" The calendar date has assumed a kind of dread, mythic quality.

Everything about September 11th remains larger than life in this way. A year ago, the mantra of the media was "nothing will ever be the same again." News anchors fell all over themselves to ask important political figures and historians if they thought September 11th was truly an "era-defining" event, something akin to the assassination of JFK or the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It was as if, tragic as it was, these reporters were grateful to have some "real history" to talk about, something that wouldn't be quickly erased from the short attention spans of America (like Kosovo, Somalia, etc.) It became common to hear the phrase: "In the post-September 11th world . . ."

Whether "everything" really changed is something we probably won't know for a long time -- I'm not going to speak on the subject of September 11th's historical significance. For now, suffice it for me to say that as of late August 2002, people still listen to bad pop music and a man named George Bush still wants to attack Iraq.

What I do find my thinking about is how we ought best to treat this anniversary. What tone should our commemoration take on? Is the inevitable patriotism-drenched, teary-eyed solemn takeover of all 500 channels the best way to remember the September dead?

Image: CNN

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September 2002

jay's head
josh ring