If you’re away from the New York area, you might not know that today is the seventh anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Around here, you know the anniversary is upon you around Labor Day. That’s when the obligatory coverage seems to start. And in newsrooms, the planning for the anniversary starts before then. How should we approach covering it this year?
Honestly, though, I’ve gotten to the point where ignoring today makes me very happy.
It’s not that I don’t want people to honor those who were killed. It’s not that I don’t think we should mark the day when our lives changed in this country. It’s just how I feel about Sept. 11.
I didn’t lose anyone in 2001. But I was a reporter covering the events that unfolded that day and the days that followed. Reporters have to set aside their feelings when they’re working, but it’s not easy when you’re covering something that really rocked our entire country. Most especially the area where you live.
And I didn’t feel like I was able to really truly mourn and feel the things I was supposed to. I worked long hours. When I came home, I wanted to escape the news. But I couldn’t because my boyfriend at the time wanted to watch the news non-stop. It wasn’t good for me. It led to me breaking down at work. Something I don’t ever want to happen again.
But I covered a story in the days that followed that touched me. The local fire department raised money for the families of the fallen from Rescue 1 in Manhattan. The Westport Fire Department had a special connection with them. Some of the firefighters also were in Manhattan helping in the aftermath of the attacks. Combined with knowing a couple families that lost someone on Sept. 11, I was touched in a way that others may not have been.
Remembering that time stirs sadness, hurt and assorted other feelings. Even seven years since then I feel that way.
And I feel today sometimes we’re not truly honoring those people or our memories or what that day should have meant. There’s token coverage in our newspapers. The Record was the newspaper that had the remarkable photo by Tom Franklin — a great photographer — of the firefighters raising the flag. It was on the front page again today. It just seems like something The Record feels they have to do. Maybe it’s something they feel like they need to toot their own horn about. And does that truly honor those firefighters? And the people who died? Or even Tom and the fantastic work he did?
And this isn’t to mention the people who have to beat you over the head every Sept. 11 that we’re not supposed to forget or the terrorist will win. There’s also some hate mixed in there too. It’s like the anniversary gives them the right to hop onto a soap box and beat us over the head.
Look, we haven’t forgotten. How can we? I don’t need you to beat me over the head with it.
I just feel like Sept. 11 should have been this time that united us as a country. And it did. For a short time. Remember those days following the attacks? People were nicer to each other. Held doors for each other. Were courteous in traffic not cutting people off. It was amazing how people were just nice to each other.
But a lot has happened since then it feels like this country is more divided then ever. People don’t discuss things any more. They shout each other down to prove they are right. There’s no debate, no trying to heal together, no looking to unite for the best thing. And as a media professional, I feel guilty because in many ways we’ve given a platform for this sort of attitude.
So today I do mourn, but I don’t want to feel like I’m being forced to mourn for what some people think is right. I mourn more for our country and how it’s become so fractured.
And I don’t think I’m the only one who feels that way.