I promised myself I wasn’t going to write a post about 9/11. As far as I’m concerned, I think that rehashing the tragedy year on year on year with documentaries, newly released footage and tapes and new memorials is like ripping a band-aid off of a really nasty scrape or peeling the scab off of a freshly healed wound. The more and more you pick and rip and open up the spot, the nastier and more infected it gets. For me, 9/11 is kind of like that. Every year there’s a new tribute or a new film or what-have-you. I don’t agree with that.
For example, the BBC all week in the run-up to the 10th anniversary of the attacks has been focusing on the “Children of 9/11”. They’re interviewing kids (who are now teens or young adults) who lost a parent or close family member in the twin towers and reporting on how they felt when they found out their parent or loved one was gone and how they’ve coped in the years since. How is that healing? How is dredging up memories that are of the most painful kind helpful–especially when they’re meant for a breakfast time news show? I get what they’re trying to achieve: a message of hope and that life does go on. And it does… but I can’t get away from the feeling that some people are trying to profit from 9/11.
That’s not to say I don’t empathize or get upset about 9/11 or that I don’t give proper respect or prayers on the anniversary; I’m not a cold hearted person. I can still tell you where I was, who I was with and even what I was wearing when my class first turned on the tv that day in September. (I was in drama, Mr S was passing through our room to his and told us there was a terrorist attack. My teacher wanted to hold off on switching on the tv until the lesson was done but we didn’t want to cooperate… anything to get out of doing work. I was with my boyfriend at the time, J. I was wearing a pair of light colored blue jeans with a rose embroidered on the back pocket and yellow ribbon with red roses on the hem and a t-shirt that was striped green and black.) While I wasn’t there on the sidewalk in Manhattan or in the buildings themselves, I was still scarred along with the rest of the country, just in a less traumatizing way.
I’ve spent the better part of my week avoiding all of the minute by minute accounts of that horrible day, the made-for-tv dramas about the lead-up to the event which only ten years later have become acceptable, documentaries about conspiracy theories and news segments where I know I’ll get upset. Even so, I can’t bury my head in the sand and I have watched and read stories I can’t avoid and yes, I do have a cry here or there.
And I know that tomorrow, like a lot of others, I’ll probably be glued to the television, watching the memorial services and whatever other programmes they decide to air. But I still don’t agree with it.
I think we, as a nation (though I’m displaced!), should remember what happened but not use it as a crutch to justify passing laws or to incite hatred for other nations and races. I think the deaths of 9/11 should humble us and inspire us to live a life worth living and should give us pause for reflection.
So what have we learned from 9/11? Honestly, as a whole, I don’t think we’ve learned much other than to fear–I’m just as guilty as the next person. For me, I’ve learned that life is fragile and can end in the blink of an eye. One minute you’re in a meeting and the very next, you’re gone. One second you’re reading a tabloid on a plane and the next you’re being hijacked and flown into a building. I’ve also learned to tell people I love them, whether by saying the words or showing it. I don’t go to bed angry with N because I don’t know if tomorrow one of us might be gone.
That’s what I’ve learned from the 9/11 attacks–to love, whether it be my husband, family or friends. The message of fear and hate and chaos that was intended by Al-Qaeda was in part successful, but not as successful as they’d intended for it to be because I know I’m not the only one who has learned what I have.
So tomorrow, on the 11th of September, remember. Cry, watch the memorials, eat a whole bar of chocolate, toast the departed… whatever you feel you need to do. But don’t forget to love…