Drawing the line
Memorabilia and profit-making trivialize 9/11
A week ago, we remembered a terrible day. We remembered not only the effect that this day has had on all of our lives, but the importance of overcoming the pain together. We also reminded ourselves that the only way to fight terror is to face it, to remain strong, and to know that it can never be powerful or frightening enough to bring down our way of life.
As it’s quite clear by now, the day I’m referring to is 9/11. I have such a vivid memory of that day ten years ago. I was nine at the time, so I didn’t quite understand what was going on, but I immediately recognized that something had gone terribly wrong: for the first time ever, every single TV channel was showing the same image. The image consisted of two towers poking out of a dense urban landscape with orange smoke rising from one of them. Looking at the TV screen trying to figure out what was going on, I suddenly heard the TV announcers screaming about a second airplane heading towards the towers. Live, I saw an airplane crash into the remaining tower, continuously interrogating myself on whether this was real or some kind of movie or TV show. To everyone’s horror, it was the former. Shocked, I continued to watch what was going on. Eventually, about an hour after the crashes, the South tower began to crumble in front of my very eyes, turning into dust as its top floors met the street level. The North tower shortly followed suit, crumbling in less than an hour after the South tower’s collapse.
At this point, most of you must be asking me why I’m making you recall one of the most horrific acts of terror in recent human history. My response is very simple: I want to remind you how remembering that day and all that subsequently ensued changed our lives. I want to remind you of the pain and terror that we all felt. “But why?” Because I am angry that there are people out there who want to exploit our emotions, our fear, our sorrow and our pain. I am furious that the Long Island Winery has come up with some kind of sick joke of a product scheme where bottles of wine called the “9/11 Merlot” and the “9/11 Chardonnay” are sold for $19.11 each. I am enraged by the fact that there is a poster that says “Not all superheroes can be found in the comics” with the silhouette of the twin towers in the background and the cartoon image of an FDNY fireman smiling and waving in the foreground as if a nice looking cartoon could make it all better for those who lost loved ones on that fateful day. Finally, I am infuriated by the fact that there is a “Pure Liberian Silver” piece that’s worth $20, made clear by the explicit markings of 9 on one side and 11 on the other (9+11=20, isn’t that neat?!) with a lovely imprint of the two towers in the center, of course.
Other personal favorites include a t-shirt that reads “9/11 was an inside job” and a figurine of the rubble created after the towers’ collapse with firemen raising the American flag in the foreground. I don’t know if this question is as obvious to everyone as it is to me, but why would you wear a t-shirt that so obnoxiously makes fun of one of the worst events in recent history? Why would you want to put a figurine of rubble on your mantle or wherever it is that you place your memorabilia?
I believe that there has never before been a more appropriate time to use the adjectives “tacky” and “tasteless” to describe a situation. It is my opinion that 9/11 gets commemorated sufficiently — if not excessively — by the mass media. I might even go so far as to say that most networks use it primarily as a tool to boost their ratings. This “extensive coverage” also feels quite exploitative when you think about it, but is somewhat justified by the fact that it allows the public to follow what happened and what has been done since that day. It further lets us know what is being done to remember those who were unlucky enough to be in one of those buildings, as well as those who risked their lives to rescue people from the enormous mess of stone, metal and concrete that lay in the middle of downtown Manhattan.
I would like to send one message to the people that perceive themselves intelligent or business-savvy of having created these wonderful “memorabilia”: when you want to remind people of that day, remind yourselves first of the 246 people that died in the suicide planes; of the Falling Man and more than 200 others that shared his fate; of the people that perished because they couldn’t breathe through the thick smoke and the extreme heat; of the 2,977 who died, and their relatives who have to continue living their lives knowing that somewhere out there, you are trying to profit from what may have been the single most terrifying and defining day of their lives.
We can remember 9/11 just fine. When did you forget?
Hal Anil is a member of the Class of 2015.