It’s that time of the year when I start avoiding Facebook until all the comments about “remembering September 11th” stop. And given that it’s been 10 years, you think we could have moved on and stop dwelling on this. On September 11th, ~3,000 people died. It was, and will forever be, a horrible tragedy – no question. But lets put it in perspective.
On June 6th, 2,499 Americans were killed. At best it gets a passing mention in the newspaper (that’s D-Day – 1944). “But wait”, you say, “those were soldiers – that’s a tragedy too but it’s the cost of war”. Fine – then what about December 7th when 2,402 people died (that’s the attacks on Pearl Harbor – 1941). Yes, many of them were soldiers, but they weren’t actively engaged with an enemy at the time — they were having breakfast.
So why all the hubbub about September 11th? It can’t be the total number of people killed. It can’t be that those killed weren’t fighting in a war. It can’t be that it was the first major attack on US soil. Is it that it was the first attack on the mainland US? Is it just the Pearl Harbor of our generation and that, in time, it will ease out of people’s minds or the importance dwindle as the generation that lived through it die off? Is it etched deeper into the minds of our generation than D-Day and Pearl Harbor was of our grandparents because of the vivid real-time images the modern age made possible?
Or, rather, is it that for the first time the American people woke up and realized that we are not god’s gift to the world, that not everyone likes us (not a surprise to anyone who travels overseas even before 9/11), and in fact some people hate us. That we aren’t invulnerable and are susceptible to the violence we once saw only on TV; violence happening in places like Israel, Palestine, Spain (Madrid train bombings), and India (Mumbai attacks). That, in short, Americans woke up to the reality that we live in a scary world too, and remembering September 11th and commemorating those that died is an attempt to reclaim our childlike ignorance of how the world really is — because we were happier that way.
The more we commemorate September 11th, the more the terrorists have achieved their purpose of giving them the attention they desire. I’m not saying we should forget it, but we need to stop celebrating it. Lets learn the lessons we as a country needed to learn and move on.
Instead, if you feel the uncontrollable desire to remember September 11th for something, do so because it’s my Dad’s birthday — that seems like a much better thing to celebrate.