Friday, September 11, 2009

Depth Perception

Every generation has its national tragedies. Our grandparents had World War II; their children had the Kennedy assassination. "I remember exactly where I was when it happened", I recall my mother saying whenever JFK was mentioned. No generation can lay claim to the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11, yet everyone knows exactly where they were. I was living in Pittsburgh and had just flown back from doing my show in NYC two days prior. I was awakened around 8:30 am by a friend who said, "can you believe this??" When she told me to turn on my TV, I asked what channel and she replied, "any of them". Like everyone else, I watched transfixed as the towers crumbled, nerves frayed and unable to process what was unfolding. The phone rang nonstop- calls from my family, worried by initial reports that a third plane had crashed in Pittsburgh.

It seems a natural human reaction to take unfathomable events and distill them down to easily quantifiable symbols- yellow ribbon stickers, flag pins, etc. Eight years later, those symbols (once painfully burned into our collective psyche) are largely absent-their emotional impact dulled by the passage of time, assimilated into the tedium of daily life, and replaced by more recent burdens. The wars spawned by 9/11 still rage worldwide, as a constant reminder of the detritus of unanswerable questions. Turn on a television today and a continuous loop of footage from that morning will once again give voice to those ghosts, a necessary and visceral return to the day that fractured our national identity by forcing us to either unite or divide.

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