I feel like we should be doing something. We, as a country, should be marking this day with… something. It seems like after all the pain and suffering, we should be doing more than simply “going on with our lives.” It seems that a simple remembrance is appropriate for the Oklahoma City bombing, but for 9/11, we need more. Hands Across America, that’s too hokey. Maybe, just maybe, a simple moment of silence. Maybe that’s enough. Then the question becomes how long do we try to remember? Five years? That doesn’t seem like enough. 10 years… 20 years… 50 years? Now, this seems like way too much.
Oh, this day shouldn’t be about destruction. This day should be about bringing us together. It should be about the thousands who came to New York to help clear the rubble. It should be about the thousands who reached out to the victim’s families. It should be listening to the stories of the Americans who simply died for no reason. WE need to be reminded that it could happen again if we are asleep at the wheel, again.
I know I shouldn’t have to point this out, but in the atmosphere in which we live, incredibly partisan, it seems necessary — nobody owns 9/11 with the possible exception of the families of 9/11. This isn’t a Republican or Democratic day. This day does not belong to Independents. This day does not belong to New York or New Jersey or the Pentagon or the military or Pennsylvania. 9/11 was a national tragedy. It belongs to all of us whether we like it or not.
Every year, the custody battle over 9/11 becomes more contentious. The current furor over the proposed construction of an Islamic center a couple of blocks away from the World Trade Center footprint has made this anniversary of the carnage at the towers, the Pentagon, and Shanksville, Pa., more prickly than usual.
New Yorkers have thought from the beginning that the calamity belongs to them because, well, because they’re egocentrics who think that everything belongs to them. But New Yorkers would also have you believe that the day belongs to them because their city endured the greatest fatalities. (The Jerseyites who died? Fuggedaboutit.)
Those who lost relatives in the attacks tend to think of 9/11 as their personal property because their immediate loss was so great. But that doesn’t mean they see eye to eye about everything 9/11. Some would have liked to see the WTC site sculpted into a “cemetery” or permanent memorial. Others thought their special status should have given them a louder voice in dictating the size, shape, and use of any replacement buildings. Today, September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows sings “Kumbaya” as they encourage alternatives to war and attempt to build universal fellowship. The September 11th Education Trust, which started as a family group, seeks to preserve the day with oral histories and archival materials. Meanwhile, 9/11 Families for a Safe & Strong America takes a hard line and is currently protesting the building of the Islamic center.
Politicians claimed ownership of 9/11 almost from the get-go to advance their goals. Within five hours of the strike, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld was plotting ways to harness it as an excuse to attack Iraq. The Bush administration and Congress invoked 9/11 as they rushed into law in six weeks an act comprised largely of a police- and surveillance-powers wish list they had been keeping on a shelf, which they dubbed the USA PATRIOT Act. And, of course, the Bush administration repeatedly conjured images of 9/11 over the next 20 months to successfully campaign for the Iraq invasion. (more…)