Sunday, September 2, 2007

9/11 Tribute Fatigue

As the anniversary of 9/11 approaches, the New York Times asks the question, "How Much Tribute Is Enough?"

Again it comes, for the sixth time now — 2,191 days after that awful morning — falling for the first time on a Tuesday, the same day of the week.

Again there will be the public tributes, the tightly scripted memorial events, the reflex news coverage, the souvenir peddlers.

Is all of it necessary, at the same decibel level — still?

Each year, murmuring about Sept. 11 fatigue arises, a weariness of reliving a day that everyone wishes had never happened. It began before the first anniversary of the terrorist attack. By now, though, many people feel that the collective commemorations, publicly staged, are excessive and vacant, even annoying.

“I may sound callous, but doesn’t grieving have a shelf life?” said Charlene Correia, 57, a nursing supervisor from Acushnet, Mass. “We’re very sorry and mournful that people died, but there are living people. Let’s wind it down.”

Some people prefer to see things condensed to perhaps a moment of silence that morning and an end to the rituals like the long recitation of the names of the dead at ground zero.

But many others bristle at such talk, especially those who lost relatives on that day.

“The idea of scaling back just seems so offensive to me when you think of the monumental nature of that tragedy,” said Anita LaFond Korsonsky, whose sister Jeanette LaFond-Menichino died in the World Trade Center. “If you’re tired of it, don’t attend it; turn off your TV or leave town. To say six years is enough, it’s not. I don’t know what is enough.”

As the ragged nature of life pushes on, it is natural that the national fixation on an ominous event becomes ruptured and its anniversary starts to wear out. Once-indelible dates no longer even incite curiosity. On Feb. 15, how many turn backward to the sinking of the battleship Maine in 1898?

Few Americans give much thought anymore on Dec. 7 that Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941 (the date to live in infamy). Similar subdued attention is paid to other scarring tragedies: the Kennedy assassination (Nov. 22, 1963), Kent State (May 4, 1970), the Oklahoma City bombing (April 19, 1995).

Why is it that few Americans give much thought to the Pearl Harbor attack or other important events in American history?

It could be because most Americans are too stupid to realize that something of tremendous significance happened on those dates.

It could be that most Americans have no sense of history, no perspective. This narcissistic culture doesn't prompt people to look beyond their own little lives.

Anyway, the fact that many people don't recognize the anniversaries of some watershed events in American history isn't reason to stop commemorating 9/11.

...Some people are troubled by what they see as others’ taking advantage of the event. “Six years later, we can see that a lot of people have used 9/11 for some gain,” said Matt Brosseau, 27, of Westfield, N.J. He sees the public tributes as “crassly corporatized and co-opted by false patriots.”

“Me personally, I wouldn’t involve myself in a public commemoration,” he said. “I don’t see the need for an official remembrance from the city or anyone else. In six years, is Minneapolis going to pay for something for the people who died in the bridge collapse?”

That is so lame!

It's idiotic to compare the Minneapolis bridge collapse with the 9/11 attacks. A bridge's structural flaws or disrepair can't be seen as similar to attacks meant to slaughter thousands of people.

With all due respect, Brosseau should be embarrassed for making that ridiculous comment.

David Hendrickson, 56, a computer software trainer who lives in Manhattan, said he began being somewhat irritated by the attention to the commemoration on the third anniversary. “It seems a little much to me to still be talking about this six years later,” he said. “I understand it’s a sad thing. I understand it’s a tragedy. I’ve had my own share of tragedies — my uncle was killed in a tornado. But you get on. I have the sense that some people are living on their victimhood, which I find a little tiring.”

Mental health practitioners see a certain value in the growing fatigue.

“It’s a good sign when people don’t need an anniversary commemoration or demarcation,” said Charles R. Figley, the director of the Florida State University Traumatology Institute. “And it’s not disrespectful to those who died.”

Laurie Pearlman, a clinical psychologist in Massachusetts, said, “Our society has a very low tolerance for grief — it’s exhausting and unrelenting, and we don’t want to hear about it.”

Everyone has personal tragedies and amasses a lifetime of sad anniversaries.

For the family and friends of nearly 3000 innocents, 9/11 is the date of one of those very personal losses.

Most of us can relate to that, the grieving and sadness.

But 9/11 also has a place in our shared national history. That takes it out of the realm of private loss alone.

9/11 has a significance that's much greater than other shocking events such as the assassinations of President Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King.

The coordinated plan to hijack civilian airliners and fly them into targets on U.S. soil was an unprecedented event. The death toll was so enormous. The destruction, the World Trade Center towers crumbling before our eyes, was surreal.

I don't know how people can be saying, "Enough with the remembrances."

If people find it too tiring to remember the 9/11 attacks on the anniversary, they don't have to. They don't have to give it a thought. They can turn off media coverage, completely tune it out, and go about their business.

They can choose to ignore the day.

Personally, I find the suggestion that it's time to scale back 9/11 anniversary remembrances offensive, though not surprising.

Of course, there are whiners that can't be bothered with the annoyance of those tiresome 9/11 tributes.

They want to move on and forget that we have enemies. They want to pretend that Islamic extremists didn't kill nearly 3000 people and they aren't currently plotting to kill more of us. They don't want to acknowledge that we are at war.

It's so much easier to avoid being reminded of all the horror and death of 9/11. It's so much simpler to push the memory of the thousands of dead aside.

What's scary about 9/11 tribute fatigue is the mindset that fosters it.

Such fatigue may result in more death, destruction, and misery.


Anonymous said...

Here is an interesting BBC Show about the Oklahoma City Bombing. Please watch and then pass link along to friends.

Anonymous said...

More republican scare's time to move on and stop being professional martyrs and career victims.

Anonymous said...

The deaths of those who served in Afghanistan and Iraq after 9/11 should be marked. Why don't we read their names on 9/11? Why is someone who signed up to defend their country -- and seek vengeance in the names of the victims -- less deserving of a memorial than the stock broker who was struck down in the midst of just living his rich life? Why don't we care about them?

Mary said...

I care about them.

The Americans who died while serving in the military in the War on Terror will never be forgotten, at least by some of us.

Anonymous said...

I'm the annonymous who made the comment about the service people being ignored on 9.11, and about the brokers. But the day was much better and more inclusive than I expected. I saw that the surviving Canter Fitzgerald staff spend 9/11 raising money for charities. I saw other events to raise money for scholarships for children of those in service. Also I saw many stories recognizing the sick relief workers and demanding justice for them.

We still are not doing what we need to do to protect and honor the service people. But I am glad that 9/11 in NYC this year was not just about mourning those in the towers.

Mary said...

While we witnessed the worst of humanity on September 11, 2001, we also witnessed great acts of selflessness, bravery, and love.

It's fitting that on the 9/11 anniversary, in addition to reflecting on the enormous loss, that we do something positive as well.