And now, for the most uncharacteristic post in the history of this blog. This blog is not a place for politics. That's what Best of the Blogs is for. But for some reason, I'd rather write about this here, for the people who read this blog, than for the crowd at BotB.
September 11 is a terribly sad day to me, not so much because of the people lost on that day--I didn't know anyone, and I don't know anyone who knew anyone, who died at the World Trade Center or Pentagon. It's painful because I feel like I lost my country on that day--starting on that morning, the United States of America has become a place we would never have recognized on September 10, 2001.
Not only that: The mourning we've done as a nation today seems misplaced. Those who lost friends and family members are entitled to mourn their dead, but for the rest of us to mourn seems odd to me after all this time. What are we mourning, exactly? And are we mourning at all? Or are we, in some bizarre way, celebrating? Here in America, we believe that we do everything bigger and better than any other country in the world--so why wouldn't that attitude extend to our suffering? Couldn't we be demonstrating, through our ostentatious displays of media-delivered grief today, that we also hurt better than any other people in the world?
For what it's worth, on September 11, 2001, I got to my corporate job at 7:15AM, as usual. Just before 8:00, our video producer, Kym, came in and flipped on the TV in her cubicle. She'd been listening to the radio on the way in. "They said that an airplane crashed into the World Trade Center." As I looked at the fuzzy picture on the tube, I kept imagining a small plane, and it didn't really register to me that the hole in the building was a lot bigger than that. At some point, somebody said that there was a second plane. Pretty soon, the TV was sitting on the window behind my cubicle in hopes of getting better reception, and we watched pictures we could barely process. At some point, somebody said that the towers had collapsed. "What does that mean, collapsed?" I wondered. I imagined half-standing rubble, and couldn't fathom that they'd go down like a controlled demolition. Our office stayed open all day, and at one point during the afternoon, we had a regular weekly team meeting for one of my projects, which was distinctly surreal. Younger staff members seemed to have an easier time working than those of us who were a bit older--we gathered in various cubes and talked in hushed, barely believing voices.
As a media guy, what sticks with me about September 11 is the utter lack of calculation on the part of the TV networks that day. Reporters ceased to be Reporters, conscious of having the sacred duty of Explaining Things to People. They became regular folks caught in the middle of something the likes of which they'd never seen and could never have imagined. Image didn't matter, competition didn't matter--it was the single most small-d democratic day in the history of modern media. It didn't last long. It ended as soon as each channel gave September 11 its own logo and musical theme, which signaled that even a transcendent event like September 11 would eventually become a mere part of the media torrent.
Some friends of this blog have made their own September 11 posts, with appropriate music. The Stepfather of Soul meditates; Good Rockin' Tonight gets angry.
Tune of the Day: "Soul Deep" by the Box Tops. Here's another one for the list of people who should have been bigger stars than they were: Alex Chilton, the Box Tops' lead singer. In an alternate universe, he had a solo career that produced a boatload of hits. In our reality, at the very least, his post Box-Tops group, Big Star, should be more than a cult favorite.