Monday, September 11, 2006

Where Were You?

It seems as if multiple generations have asked this question numerous times where catastrophic events were concerned. Prior to the destruction of the World Trade Centre towers on September, 11th 2001 people often asked that question about the "Kennedy Assassination" or "the Moon Landing". Earlier generations no doubt asked about "Pearl Harbour", "The Lusitania", "The Titanic", "The Explosion of the Maine" or "Fort Sumter". Now, of course the question on peoples lips is "Where were you on 9/11?"

Like many people I, too have a 9/11 "story". Mine's just like thousands of others on that day, a reflection of the "normality" which occurs in the midst of any catastrophic event, regardless of anyone's wishes. Unlike many people across the country today I will not be mourning the loss 3000 people who were unknown to me. I will not engage in any ceremonies marking the event, in order to somehow feel better about myself as an American. I will not be allowing myself to be manipulated by the media or the state in order to maintain the fear and frenzy that was engendered that five years ago, today. "9/11" is much more personal to me and I will not allow it to be marred by the maudlin sentimentality inspired by the state and its spokesmen.

Where were you? I would be hearing that a lot today if I decided to watch the television or listen to talk radio for an endless period. I'm sure the internet will be filled to the brim with these, as well. You see, I know where I was and I know where the people I care about were. We were gathered together in an ICU waiting room waiting while my mother died and watching as another jet hit the remaining WTC tower. While the country gathered around water coolers, radios and televisions to watch the beginning of a bleak period in America, my family, and many hundreds more went about the normal business of watching our loved ones die of "normal" and quite undramatic causes on that day.

Sitting next to my father, a man who was career military and a member of the Diplomatic Corps my only remembered comment was, "Someone's going to die for this". Little did I know then that the someone I said was going to die was going to be thousands of American soldiers, innocent Iraqi's and others, as my wounded country lashed out in a frenzy. Little did I realise that the supposed mastermind behind the WTC tragedy was, 5 years later going to still be a free man with little or no prospects of ever seeing him captured. The only thing on my mind that day was the decision I would have to take with my father to remove my mother from life support, as she had long ago requested.

That's where I was and that's where my mind returns every September 11th. I don't spend this day listening to or answering the cries for vengeance from the talking heads and politicians who all want to lead me somewhere. I ignore the neo-conservatives, neo-libertarians and others who use tragedy and grief as soapboxes for their own warped agenda. This is my day. It's my family's day and that of thousands of others who lost loved ones in the course of "normality" on September 11th, 2001. Excuse us if we don't feel your nationalistic grief and rend our clothes to suit some societal expectations of what is and is not proper. This day belongs to us and to the people who truly lost someone on September 11th, 2001. Not to candle holders, preachers, media clowns or politicians all hoping to feel good about themselves or to make others feel saddened for a moment.

This is a large country and Death did not take a holiday due to terrorism. In the rush to promote "9/11" the normal folks of September 11th get lost and have to deal with the constant and painful reminders of their real losses. Give us a break, will ya? We know where we were...and we really don't care where you were.

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3 comments:

Gospazha said...

I feel the same way. I just can't listen to any news on 9/11. It makes me ill for a number of reasons, the foremost being the blind patriotism and my suspicions that our own government played some part in what happened 5 years ago.

And most of these people who light candles and tear up at appropriate moments will go home and stop giving a shit the moment their key hits the lock. They demonstrate they "remember" because it's the thing to do, not because they truly grasp the meaning of the events on 9/11. It's the nauseating herd mentality. "If I don't light a candle, everyone will think I don't care." In truth, they're concerned with what everyone else thinks of them. Ick.

Sunni said...

I'm sorry for your loss ... and more so for the extra difficulties a coincidence of dates has brought to you and your family.

James Pyrich said...

Most years, 9/11 has passed just like any other day. This year, however, I had to take my girlfriend to the doctor. They had a television in the waiting room, and part of the "ceremony" was the reading of the names of all of the people who died in those incidents.

I wanted to turn off the television from the moment I walked in, but there were people watching it. Also, there were two guys with NYFD shirts in there, and I didn't want to irk them and possibly give them an excuse to become violent.

Fortunately, they left, and I spoke out. Only one person was sitting, transfixed. I had to ask him twice if I could turn the television off. He waved dismissively, but he wasn't about to stop me. I got up, turned off the television, and the air in the room suddenly become ten times lighter. I could hear people breathing, even.

Perhaps it was those NYFD guys who most needed a wake-up call, but I wasn't looking for a fight--I was just looking for some peace and quiet and to NOT be bombarded by this obvious pandering.