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.
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 Baby. She can be followed on Twitter.