Avoid Media on 9/11

Posted: 8 September 2011 in observations

Americans have a “where were you” moment.  Oh, your sister says, I was folding laundry in front of the TV.  Your neighbor was trying to get through traffic to work (and then home again – no easy feat).  Buying flowers.  In a meeting.  On an airplane.  That doesn’t begin to cover the other half (and you know who I mean).  I can’t speak for them.  I wouldn’t.  I’m not eloquent enough.

I speak for myself.  If you want to listen, I can tell you where I was (at my desk in a warehouse in Africa) and how I found out (the phone rang; the Embassy called an emergency meeting) and what I did then.
Lost my temper.
Slammed my hand down on my desk.
Looked out the window at the crisp blue sky.
Cried.  So angry.

And then I just stopped remembering.

Missing: the reaction of my coworkers, the meeting at the Embassy, the drive home, sharing the news with my partner.  I assume the guards at my house had words of sympathy.  I gather I got more information as the evening wore on.  Probably I didn’t eat dinner, or sleep well.  And here’s something I wish was missing: watching my friends drink bottled and bottles of wine and the same one minute clip of a plane flying and then crashing over and over on the only three news stations we got – one in French, two in Arabic.

I think I had it easy.  I know I did.

As hard as it was to cope with the shock in a small community far from the States, doing it in the context of a small community far from the States might have been a blessing.  We grieved together and leaned heavily toward one another both then and in the anthrax scare following (and the death of two of our friends, two marines, after that).  We had the same limited collection of images and the same French and Arabic news.  The internet in Africa in 2001 was not the internet of today.  My wife, in Virginia that day, tells a very different story.  Videos, pictures, audio, personal interviews, different angles, repetition, misinformation, chaos.

I will tune out on Sunday (probably Monday, too).  I won’t look at the internet or watch the news.  It isn’t the memorial and the recognition of the victims, it’s the replaying of the day.  It’s the news station that will – you know one of them will – rebroadcast events in real time.  The newspapers that will publish images I haven’t seen.  It’s the graphic blitzkrieg that I was protected from that day (and the days that followed).

Today over lunch, I saw a picture of people running down a street covered in dust and I thought, “why are those evacuees from flooded areas so dusty?”  It wasn’t current flood footage, obviously, but I haven’t ever seen pictures like that from that day.  I don’t want to.  My heart hurts enough without it.


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