It hadn’t actually occurred to me to post anything about the 10th anniversary of 9/11 until I received an email from Tenured Radical yesterday asking that I let her know if I posted anything. I told my 9/11 story, such as it is, on the fifth anniversary, and that story hasn’t changed. I’ve avoided all news coverage for the past few days: I feel like there’s something macabre, when my experience of that event was entirely mediated by media coverage, about returning to the media. What do I mean by that? Well, I, like the vast majority of us, did not experience the events of September 11th first-hand: I watched them unfold on television. Watching television now feels less like commemoration or memorial to me and more like an attempt to re-experience, a gross nostalgia. My experience of 9/11 was, in every way that matters, vicarious. It didn’t actually happen to me, any more than Hurricane Katrina happened to me.
Now, you might say, “But we all as Americans experienced this! It happened to us all!” and I suppose that is “true,” as far as it goes. But I feel very distant from the events of September 11, 2001, in a way that I don’t feel distant from the day-to-day reality of my students who are veterans who’ve returned from active duty in Afghanistan or Iraq, of my students who have family, friends, or partners currently serving or just returned home. I feel very distant from the events of September 11, 2001, in a way that I don’t feel distant from the shock of the collapse in the housing market and the double-dip recession which leaves us with a 9.1 percent unemployment rate nationally.
This is not to diminish the tragedy of that day for those who experienced its events first-hand, who lost their lives, who lost family members. Rather, it’s to honor them in the acknowledgment that their loss is not my property, their loss is not something that I have any right to consume.