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September 11 is not a holiday

Posted in Editorials on September 12th, 2011

Earlier this week, my husband and I talked about the possibility of writing 9/11 posts to put up yesterday. But neither of us had much to say. The Onion and Amanda Marcotte pretty much said everything that’s on my mind. My hometown newspaper published a list of people from the community who had died on that day with their pictures, which was heartbreaking, but I felt a loving and respectful tribute.

But throughout the day yesterday, I noticed that things have changed a lot. On September 11, 2002, I was a junior in college in upstate New York. I remember feeling so unbearably sad. I could not believe it had been a whole year. Still a Catholic, I went to afternoon Mass between classes, attended a short vigil where the University Student Government Executive Board read the names of alumni who had been killed and then later that evening, Adam and I went to a ceremony that the entire campus was invited to – we sat on a blanket outdoors, and there was an interfaith statement from a Christian Minister, Jewish Rabbi and Muslim Imam calling for world peace. Then a professor of Creative Writing read a poem she had written for the occasion. I wish I could find a copy of it somewhere but it does not seem to be located on the internet. One of the lines was “I hope that there is never any such thing as a September 11 Linen Sale.” My mother told me I was doing too much, but I felt like I had to pay my respects to the dead. And shortly after that I didn’t feel the need to mourn much longer. I did know one of the victims – a neighbor of mine from when I was a little girl. I also have a close family member who was and continues to be a first responder who has never been the same. But with time, I felt that I had expressed all I needed to express.

It is not my place to tell others how to mourn. Many have lost more than I have. But as Amanda rightly points out, it seems that the less someone was directly impacted, the more of a show they need to make about how they will “Never Forget.” (As if we ever could.) I have always found 9/11 merchandise bizarre and distasteful, but I was never quite so disgusted as I was on Saturday when, walking into my grocery store in New York City, I saw a display of red, white and blue flowers and balloons for people to purchase. Then on Sunday, driving through Queens, I noticed a bar with a banner outside that said “We remember those who gave their lives today. Thank you for spending 9/11 at [Name of Bar]” What’s next? 9/11 drink specials? A simple American flag would have been sufficient.

I believe that people should take some time for quiet reflection if they need to. My hometown on Long Island has a small ceremony every Memorial Day where the names of anyone from the town who was killed as a member of the military is read. Events like these, I have no objection to. People were gruesomely murdered and we should respect their memory. But when people start asking me “What are you doing for 9/11?” as they have this year, I feel a deep unease. September 11 is not a holiday. It is the anniversary of a terrorist attack. The dead should be  honored and remembered, but there is nothing to celebrate.

One Response to “September 11 is not a holiday”

  1. Ebonmuse Says:

    I wonder if this same thing happened on the anniversaries of Pearl Harbor – if it started out as a solemn occasion and gradually became a generic patriotic holiday. It’s a weird thought to imagine there are now 10-year-old kids who were born after the towers fell.

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