|Dangerspouse Rides Again|
Garage - Track
Sept. 11, 2015 - 8:18 p.m.
The Two Towers, redux
Lots of stuff has been happening at the ol' DangerRanch. Please forgive me for not updating in a while. I intend to get back to regular updating soon, but I do I really wanted to revisit a subject I wrote about on this exact date just a couple of years ago: The September 11 2001 attacks on the US.
Ok, here goes. Please don't hate me:
I used to work in the World Trade Center. In fact, I worked there twice. But that was before I got into radio.
When the 9/11 attacks happened I was on the radio, just finishing up my on-air shift. The planes hit, the towers came down, and we watched it all from our studio windows and cameras on the other side of the Hudson River in New Jersey. I actually left work before the towers collapsed, but when I heard they did, I raced back and got right back on the air. For the next 3 days.
Every year since, whether as a news anchor, reporter, commentator, or just a traffic reporter, I'm obligated to cover the commemorations and memorials that take place on 11 September.
And frankly, I'm starting to despair.
I can't help but feel that as a nation we've joined a cult of victimhood. As bad as the event was - and I'll be the last to downplay any aspect of it after watching the whole thing happen before my eyes, knowing that some of my former co-workers couldn't have made it out - what we've made of it since is even worse.
We're fetishizing grief. Every year the histrionics get more histrionic. The memorializing prose gets more purple, more overwrought. The media coverage gets more pornographic.
But, Good Soldier Švejk that I am, every 11 September I put my head down and my headphones on, and for 8 hours talk about the Horror Of It All, the grieving families, the hero first responders, the resilience of America.
Don't get me wrong: it WAS horror. Abject, stunning, soul rending horror. And 9/11 families grieve with tears as hot as any family that deals with any unjust, almost incomprehensible death in their midst.
And first responders? A young fireman in Brooklyn, Stephen Siller, had just come off his overnight shift when he heard over his scanner that the towers were hit. He knew he'd be needed, so he drove back to his station house, grabbed his equipment, and drove his truck to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. But all the river crossing were closed as an emergency measure. What did he do? He RAN THROUGH THE TUNNEL ON FOOT. Three miles. In filthy Brooklyn Battery Tunnel air, with a 60 pound pack on his back. After working all night. To save people.
On the Manhattan side he ran about another half mile through the soot and ash...and that was the last anyone saw of Stephen Siller. They hold a memorial run through the tunnel every year now in his honor.
Those first responders were not human. At least, not the same kind of human I am. They're better.
Despite all that, despite the fact that the horror, the grief, the heroics, and the resiliency were all seen in the extreme that day and many days since...our way of commemorating it all has become unseemly. It's almost like it's become entertainment, entertainment that is our due as a paying audience.
Maybe I'm biased though. I mean, my job is to sit there and gorge on all the stories and sound bites and interviews that my reporters file, while keeping tabs on TV coverage and press releases and updates from agencies concerned. So I get it full in the face from every quarter for hours and hours on end, whereas others might...well, I don't know. What DO others do? Is it common for regular non-media folk to digest this marathon of dolorous pomp of their own free will, getting some sort of cathartic thrill through their tears that they look forward to every year now? Tell me.
From the time this feeling started - around the 10th anniversary I guess - I've kept my opinion to myself. Saying "Uh, guys, your expressions of grief are out of proportion to the events of 9/11" in the U.S. of God Bless America is like saying "So I was fucking my mom last night, and....". You can expected level of disgust and social opprobrium.
But...things might be changing. During my newscast(s) this morning, one of the stories I ran with was a wrap filed by our field reporter at Ground Zero. The hook of the story was that for the first time since 2001, construction in the area was not cancelled for the day. A construction worker being interviewed was asked whether he thought that was appropriate, and to my amazement he responded that he thought the parade of commemorations were getting out of hand, and people should start getting a stiff upper lip about it already and move on. Remember the tragedy, but stop opening the wound fresh every year. That, from a blue collar worker at the very site where the towers collapsed.
Then, on my way home from work today, I heard this on NPR (listen to the audio. It conveys more than the written copy.)
So maybe there is hope. Maybe decorum will prevail - eventually - and we can stop this ever escalating national orgy at the altar of Thanatos.
I know this is already overlong, overwrought, and generally overblown - and I get the irony, considering that's what I was railing against. But I'm in the media. That's what we do after all.
This is Dangerspouse signing off. Thanks for listening.
ps. The Budweiser commercial still makes me cry.