On September 12, 2001, if you’d have asked me, a self-confessed news junkie, if I’d have been glued to the TV during the 10th anniversary coverage of 9/11, my answer would have been an emphatic yes. I’d have had my VCR (remember those) taping everything and anything related to it. I’d want to see every angle of crash footage, every heartbreaking story, every survivor.
I’d have been wrong.
As I see the relatively sanitized footage that plays on daily mentions of the events 10 years ago, I’m not filled with the rage or, let’s face it, morbid curiosity that I had in the months following 9/11. Then, I couldn’t get enough of the gruesome footage, tales of survivors and those the dead left behind.
Instead, I simply feel… enough.
Ten years later, 9/11 feels less like the tragic event that became a rallying point for American pride and hope, and more like the funeral of a beloved grandparent who held everything together.
In those ten years, most everything about our country seems to have splintered. Our economy is a mess. Our politicians now run with the stated purpose of turning our country and our states into dysfunctional messes. Our once great military has been worked to the bone with both our fighting troops and their families left to suffer the indignities that we pretend to know because we stuck a magnetic ribbon on our car.
Our televisions are full of “celebrities” who only attained that status through “reality” shows that celebrate the worst in people. Our news programs cover the disappearance of 1 person for months at a time and grant celebrity status to criminals while ignoring the real stories that impact our lives.
We spend our time on our iPods, phones, and laptops telling people 1000 miles away that we knew and hated in high school about our divorces, rotten children, and every fart, bump, bruise, and sexual encounter, while ignoring the people in the room with us.
In short, to me, we’ve become a nation that now celebrates misery and dysfunction as though it’s our greatest national aspiration and we should all play a part.
The dozens (hundreds?) of hours of television coverage this week surrounding 9/11/01 now plays to me as unseemly. As someone who was not directly touched by 9/11 beyond the images that we all witnessed, wallowing in the stories of that day just seems wrong. I have not known enough, experienced enough, and I’m not close enough to the horrors of that day.
It’s not that I don’t care, it’s that I no longer feel as though it is my right to pretend I was a victim of that day.
On 10/31/01, a little girl was born. On that terrible day, she was but a blurry ultrasound. Then, early one Halloween, she was a reality. It was a reality that shaped my world far more than 9/11 ever would. And while many late nights up with her would see me watching the images of war on CNN, that eventually changed to Disney Channel and Nickelodeon. The horror of 9/11 turned into the humor of SpongeBob Squarepants.
And as my little girl took shape and became a full blown person with her own personality, I realized how important it was to protect not just her, but myself from the horrors of life. I certainly understood that bad things happened in the world, but I need just a little bit of buffer to pretend they’ll never happen to her. I don’t need to wallow in the tragedy of that day, or in manufactured tragedies on network and cable TV, or even in the day to day lives of people I don’t know in facebook.
Maybe this 9/11 we can remember the victims of that day by giving them the dignity, grace, and privacy of mourning them, and then promising them we’ll try and do everything a little bit better.