These annual 9/11 remembrances freak me out

Remembering and honoring tragedy and sacrifice is a good thing.

And it’s possibly also a healthy thing for those who may be still grieving a terrible loss.

But every year around this time, when images of the Twin Towers aflame flash across my TV screen, I wonder how many years it will take until we stop reliving that awful day rather than simply honoring it?

Honoring a tragedy involves wreathes and speeches. Reliving a tragedy is when you incessantly post video of thousands of people about to die, or in the act of dying, on TV screen across the country.

NEW YORK CITY, NY - SEP 2: Light beams are lit at the site in memory of World Trade Center destroyed on September 11. September 11, 2010 in Manhattan, New York City. Songquan Deng /

NEW YORK CITY, NY – SEP 2: Light beams are lit at the site in memory of World Trade Center destroyed on September 11. September 11, 2010 in Manhattan, New York City. Songquan Deng /

Now, a big part of my problem with the annual national convulsion over 9/11 is that the wound is still fresh for me. I was living in Washington, DC on September 11, and that day freaked me out for life. I don’t need any help remembering it, I need help putting it out of my mind.

All of which makes me wonder what it was like after other tragedies — Pearl Harbor comes to mind. Were Americans forced to watch US troops slaughtered in Hawaii every year in early December? Did it bother anyone at that time — Hawaiians in particular — the way it bothers me now?

And to be clear, I’m not talking about some philosophical opposition to honoring the day. I tend to be patriotic to a fault. I’m talking about the way we honor it — by being forced to re-watch the brutal images over and over.

At some point, we ought to acknowledge that a lot of people who were freaked out that day still haven’t fully gotten over it. And I worry that the way these remembrances are crafted, for some of us at least, cause more harm than good.

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Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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14 Responses to “These annual 9/11 remembrances freak me out”

  1. gmsdallas says:

    I turn off the TV. Can’t avoid it entirely, but this year I made it through without seeing video of the attacks once.

  2. Sister Margaret Held says:

    We relive it because we don’t ever want to forget it. And we want the young to understand what happened and how fragile our freedom can be.

  3. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    Hawaii was a territory of the United States in 1941. I believe it was a territory since 1898.

  4. peteywheats says:

    I live in Texas, and don’t know anybody who was personally involved, so I have a bit of a removed perspective compared to the powers that be in NYC and DC. I’m afraid that as long as the North East continues to control the media, we will continue to relive this day. Yeah, it was the worst attack on American soil, but that’s only because Pearl Harbor was not American territory at the time. Many, many countries have far worse attacks in their history, but I doubt any of them obsess on theirs like we do ours.

  5. evan_la says:

    Exactly my thoughts. I lived at Greenwich Ave and Jane St. then – watched the towers hit while standing on my roof deck with the morning coffee in hand. Then we made it worse, much worse, and created enemies for generations. Heartbreaking.

  6. quax says:

    Haven’t you heard that it was an inside job and no airplanes ever hit the buildings …

  7. dcinsider says:

    Preach it brother!

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  9. Chris says:

    I agree, I was a few blocks away, walking down Broadway in my way to 66 John St. I was running early and it was a beautiful morning, so I stopped at Christopher St to get coffee at the now defunct Original Espresso Bar, and walk. I saw the whole thing, but I had gotten out of the area and started walking back uptown to my office before the collapse. I never need to see those images again, but it has gotten better. For the first few years they reran the news broadcasts in real time and that always brought back the things I saw.

  10. BeccaM says:

    It’s probably going to take a while longer yet, John. The mass media these days is addicted to ratings, and one of the surest ways to make that happen is to show fascist authoritarian train-wrecks like Trump, almost 24/7, or to indulge in their predilection for terror- and war-porn.

    I’m sure you remember the old aphorism, “If it bleeds, it leads.” Only now they have way more than just a few hours of evening news to fill with dreck. A 9/11 ‘remembrance’ is still the lowest-hanging fruit of all.

    And apparently we’re all supposed to forget that Dubya and his cabal of war criminals then launched a deliberately open-ended war in Afghanistan, pretty clearly not wanting to capture or kill Bin Laden. Then lied the country into the war they actually wanted — also intended to be open-ended — explicitly using 9/11 as the excuse and attempting to tie that terror attack to a country which was known not to have anything to do with it.

    Yet these ‘remembrances’ and retrospectives will leave off that part, because it’s not good for ratings. Then within 24 hours, we’ll be back to All Trump, All The Goddamned Time.

  11. Jimmy says:

    The 24 hours news cycle doesn’t help. Television has made these horrible things into events. Even back in ’81 when President Reagan was shot the network news constantly aired that footage; I remember my junior high history teacher wheeled in a television just so we could watch it. The same is true of the Challenger explosion. I found it so distasteful how the networks constantly re-aired that explosion. I ended up turning off the television. Oddly enough, I didn’t do that with 9/11. If think there was something about a terrorist attack of this magnitude that kept me glued to the television most of the day. That said, I truly am tired of seeing those fucking planes fly into the World Trade Center, but it will happen and the cable news networks will make day long event out of it. It will likely be another decade or more before it just becomes a day of remembrance that’s barely a blip on the news radar.

  12. keirmeister says:

    I still remember the smell of death in downtime Manhattan after they opened the area up a bit. i worked near the UN and my wife was near the Empire State Building. We weren’t sure if our areas were next. Then that feeling of relief when we finally made it back to Brooklyn Heights – right across the river to see more smoke and destruction.

    What I will never forget? The absolute beauty of thousands of office papers twinkling high up in the sky…

    My son didn’t even exist yet. I’ve told him about that day, and I can tell it’s like someone retelling the bombing of Pearl Harbor to me. Perhaps when we stop using 9/11 as an excuse for bigotry we will finally be able to simply honor those who died that day instead of reliving it.

    We relive it because we haven’t learned from it.

  13. heimaey says:

    It’s horrifying to rewatch that stuff. I was here in NYC that day and saw the second tower hit and the towers fall. That said, everytime I see what our disasterous foreign policy does every day overseas I am reminded that we only lived a tiny fraction of what we put through so many people through each day and it saddens me even more.

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