Opinion: We're Free, Even to Be Over 9/11

Saturday, September 10, 2011 - 06:45 PM

Near ground zero on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

There are two schools of thought, it seems, on this ten year anniversary of 9/11.

One side feels commemoration is more than necessary. They'll remember where they were that day, what they felt, what they heard, what they saw. They'll talk about the dead, whether they knew them or not, and they'll vow to never, ever forget.

The other side has had enough. Ten years of stopping and remembering on this day has begun to rub them the wrong way. They blame the commemoration for racism, war, and a jingoism that they hate about America. They'll mock the nonstop media coverage. They'll find it all distasteful. As an example, John Hockenberry, host of WNYC's show The Takeaway, tweeted: "New York City 9/11 obsession is dreary, creepy, sad, misguided, distracting, upsetting, anything BUT patriotic and heroic. But there it is."

I fall into the first side though I find as the years go on it actually gets harder for me to tell my story and to hear the stories of others. In 2002, I could look at the photos of the jumpers, the faces of the dead, hear the 9/11 calls and read the transcripts of last calls made from high floors of those two gleaming buildings. These days I just can't.

I lost the stomach for it. I don't enjoy reliving the grief. It may be because I'm a mom now but I don't like to call up those feelings like I did in my early 20's.

When I hear people say they've had enough of what they considering a fetishizing of 9/11, I understand them though I may not agree. Even the ones for whom it's not political, ie: they don't think that we made too much of a big deal about losing 3000 people and decided to kill many more in response, might find the overt grieving unsavory. I get it.

That they exist, this second group, and that they're free to spend this day however they choose, is a blessing for us all. My childhood was spent hearing stories from my parents and grandmother about the Soviet Union.

One of the themes was that there had to be a lockstep reaction from the public to different events.

One of the more powerful stories for me involves my grandmother and her sister instantly getting to work on making a scrapbook of Stalin's life the moment they heard about his death. They hated Stalin. This is a man who killed their father (he owned a small bakery and when Stalin came to power private business was outlawed and private businessmen were sent to their deaths in the gulags), made life unbearable for them as Jews, stripped them of their basic human rights in every possible sense of that word.

But they understood that despite all that they had to survive and honoring the evil man was what they were forced to do. There was no choice, there was no debate. You did it one way and one way only. You were allowed to cry in the streets. You were not allowed to be indifferent or happy about his death. It might lead to your own.

I'm proud and honored to live in a country where our freedom extends to everything including how he handle moments of national tragedy. We don't force anyone to feel anything they don't want to, on 9/11 or any other day.

James Lileks said it best 5 years ago: “The good news? We returned to our norm: cheerful industrious self-directed Americans who think in terms of fiscal quarters, not ancient grievances, and trust in Coke and Mickey to spread our message of tolerance and prosperity. The bad news? Same as the good. Or perhaps it’s the other way around.”

Ain't that America. I'm so proud that it is.

Born in the Soviet Union and raised in Brooklyn, Karol Markowicz is a public relations consultant in NYC and a veteran of Republican campaigns in four states. She blogs about politics at Alarming News and about life in the city with her husband and baby at 212 BabyShe can be followed on Twitter.


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Comments [15]

Bruce in Iloilo

I agree both with the need to remember September 11 and that there is a fetishness around it. The problem is not that we are remembering but the way that we are remembering.

Take the service at Ground Zero. It was all about the families. It was a weepy Oprah show that seemed to be exploiting the families' personal loss. The victims should be remembered. The heroes should be honored. Putting a 14-year-old on national TV to talk about how he misses his dad serves no one nor any higher purspose.

Where was the country or the world as a whole? Where were the religious leaders to offer words? They are professionals when it comes to such events. Where are the elected leaders representing the nation as a whole, doing their best to give their version of the Gettysburg Adress (another tragic day in America)? They were mere props, manequins behind window glass. This -- what happened at Ground Zero on this past Sunday-- is not how a proud country marks an important dates. Proud countries don't mark anniversaries important to the nation by zooming in for a close up on a crying widow or a trying-to-be-stoic teenage son.

Instead of it being a day wallowing in the mourning of the families, it should have been a day for remembering the heroes and all the fallen, for remember the unity that followed the event and for reminding us why we should be proud of America.

Sep. 12 2011 10:18 PM
Amy K from NYC

Karol, as a writer you need to realize that this piece has absolutely no resemblance to your other posts (though the piece you wrote on Romney was all bull, I and others know he will be a great president). I think you didn't reflect enough on this piece, didn't write it well, and you still come off self-absorbed. I don't care where you were that day, and I am sure you don't care where I was. The fact that you can appreciate those in this country who are apathetic (Sachiko had a good comment here) and also use the term "freedom" loosely is what makes this piece irksome. Who in their right mind is proud of citizens who show apathy? Oh wait, you! It's the same apathy that is the cause of our schools failing, our leaders getting away with corruption, and mommies blogging all day about their juice cleanses as if that is the MOST important thing in the world.

Sep. 12 2011 08:34 PM
Karol from NYC

Hahaha, that granola comment is just about the meanest thing you can say to me, Amy! What don't you get? I'm a conservative. I'm nowhere near over 9/11. I was working at the top of the 3rd tallest building in NYC when it happened. By the end of the day it was the 2nd tallest. I think our struggle against Islamofascism is a true fight for civilization.

BUT I think it's an awesome thing about America that we're free to not care about anything, that people are free to be self-absorbed and live in their Park Slope baby bubble (I live in Manhattan but Brooklyn will always be home) and eat granola. I love our freedom more than anything--I even love that it extends to those people with whom I disagree.

Sep. 12 2011 05:38 PM
Amy K from New York City

Sounds like the day is just interfering with your self-absorption, Karol! Get a life outside of the baby bubble you live in! Let me guess, do you live in Park Slope Brooklyn and eat granola every morning? And for the record, your are crass to bring in other examples of human suffering...this isn't about you or your grandmother. I come from the same line of a family surviving genocide. Tacky and gauche to bring yourself into this tragedy when clearly it didn't affect you at all!

Sep. 12 2011 03:20 PM
Karol from NYC

Claire, exactly. We live in a country where forced commemoration doesn't happen--unlike the story I told about my grandmother. That's the whole point. We are lucky and we are free.

Unclesmrgol, you got it. Exactly what I'm saying.

Sep. 12 2011 09:16 AM
Mark STexas from San Antonio, Texas

I am thankful that you wrote this article. Why 911 and not Pearl Harbor or Columbus, New Mexico where Pancho Villas' forces killed military men? Could it be that the military machines continues to want to be fed in age of high deficits? Please know that the men and women of the military have my highest respect - however, the propaganda of continuing a 10 year war in Afghanistan and the Middle East is nuts! Are you scared that the Afghanistan Air Force is really going to come bomb us? I am for Peace - not war!

Sep. 11 2011 09:10 PM

Not hard for a liberal to be "over it" when they were never "into it" at any time since.

Sep. 11 2011 08:54 PM

We don't have to like the second group, and we are free to call them insensitive oafs -- or whatever other epithet comes to mind. For, after all, this is America.

Sep. 11 2011 08:36 PM
pd quig from San Jose, CA

You are out of your freaking mind: we are not free to forget 9/11 until every Muslim feels deep sorrow for what was done to us in the name of their religion--however perverted the Islamist view of Islam--and tells us, in supplication, "Never again will we let that happen in the name of Islam. Never again."

Until then, 9/11 is unfinished business. No more should this false moral equivalence and phony multicultural crap rear is asinine head.

Sep. 11 2011 08:31 PM
Claire from ABQ, NM

I don't understand how anyone can be "forced" to commemorate 9/11. Don't want to hear about it, leave the TV off. Nothing stops anyone from doing what they want on this day.

Sep. 11 2011 06:56 PM
Michael Hoskinson

Why is it there are only two choices with Leftists? can you only be free to move on from 9/11? is the only alternative to be absorbed fully by it? Why can't we hold it in our hearts and remember it but also live fills lives.

Sep. 11 2011 06:38 PM
Karol from NYC

I am happy that we live in a country free enough to accept people who don't react as we would like them to. We should remember 9/11, of course, but we should not be forced to.

Sep. 11 2011 06:37 PM

i don't get the point... you are happy that there are people in america who don't give a crap about all the people who died on 9/11? is that something to appreciate? i find it sickening.

we should never "get over" 9/11. that's beyond horrible.

try telling the victims of 9/11 that they should be happy that people are forgetting about them/ignoring them. i'm sure that would go over well.

silly article.

Sep. 11 2011 06:29 PM
Karol from NYC

Awww, I'm sorry, Jack. I'll try harder next time. ;-)

Sep. 11 2011 01:04 PM
Jack Jackson from Central New Jersey

Good grief, Karol! For one time I can agree with every word you say.

Sep. 11 2011 12:11 PM

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