Saturday, September 18, 2021

Looking back at September 14, 2001

The previous post took a look back at what I'd written in my journal on the day of the terrorist attacks, but while I had the notebook out (from the box in the garage where it normally is) I glanced a few days further and noticed what I composed a mere three days after the attacks, which I offer below without edits, as a document of its time. (I'm not suggesting I have changed my overall view in the intervening decades, especially after seeing how that period played out, but I'd probably write in a slightly less jaded tone these days.)

Spoiler: As you'll see, I was not on the nationalistic (some might say jingoistic) train sweeping much of the country at the time, but I was riding the commuter rail at the moments of writing this.

According to an email forwarded to me, today we are supposed to wear red, white, and blue in some show of unity and patriotism, showing we as a people will not tolerated terrorism.

Hmm. I didn't think we were tolerating terrorism regardless of our wardrobe. Shows what I know.

As it turns out, I am wearing a navy blue shirt, but that I had more or less decided that yesterday--not to participate in any event, just because it seemed something to wear: it was the shirt's turn in the rotation. Glancing around the train, I don't see a lot of compliance with the preferred dress code. Maybe they didn't read their email.

Over the past couple days I've also received messages trying to organize activities ostensibly aimed at showing those nefarious terrorists that the U.S. is not crumbling, that we are wounded but not crippled. Another message requested everyone light a candle at 7 p.m. tonight, in some sort of national vigil. Okay. Then the message closed noting that media coverage was critical. While I grasp the only way the intended targets are likely to see the event is if it appears on TV, when I read that line it took on a tone not of mourning but of publicity stunt.

There's also been messages being forwarded that tout the greatness of all the U.S. has done. This is good, of course, but it strikes me as though we're trying to convince ourselves of what should already think all the time, not just after a tragedy.

I appreciate that a lot of people are irrevocably emotionally wounded. There were moments Tuesday morning that I was on the verge of tears myself. However, the gestures are just trying to make ourselves feel better, that's all. And the more I see someone trying to tell me how to mourn, the less I feel part of the so-called land of the free. The kicker was the effort to forward the Lord's Prayer around, instructing the recipient to pray for the sender. Not only does it strike me as counterproductive to be laying Christian dogma down on everyone as the hope--wasn't it religious fanaticism that was at the core of what spurred the terrorists into action?--but if one is in a position to be forwarding the message, one is in relatively good shape and prayers would be better focused on the victims' families and friends.

Ah, but maybe I'm just a cynical bastard.

Today I ignored the moment of silence at noon and the candle ceremony (of sorts) at 4 p.m. I wasn't trying to be standoffish, I just wasn't paying attention to time. Not that I would have made an effort anyway, but it wasn't out of disrespect; I was just trying to conduct my life as usual, without allowing the acts of madmen to succeed in disrupting the days any more than it [sic] has to.

What is perhaps more noteworthy than these admittedly trite thoughts is the many references to forwarding messages, and remembering how in those days prior to Facebook and Twitter the way things "went viral" were through people sending on such emails to everyone in their address book--and how the email platforms allowed one to send to such large recipient groups without being rejected as spam.

It was a different time.

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