I didn’t want to watch any 9/11 specials yesterday. In fact, I’ve been dreading the date’s approach for the last few weeks. I knew there was going to be lots of 9/11 talk this year being the 10th anniversary and all, and as someone who has lived in New York since 2000, who was here on 9/11, I just didn’t want to see people’s deaths exploited for others’ gain. That’s why I loved the StoryCorps pieces I posted the other day so much, because they seemed like a non-gruesome way to honor the lives of those who were killed in the towers. But watching footage of the trade center burning, rehashing the moments over and over again as a way to incite some sort of nationalism – I’m just not into it.
So at the end of a long day yesterday I started flipping though the channels, and sure enough, there they were. All of the specials. All of the familiar faces of tabloid TV squinting their eyes, giving encouraging “please give me a good sound bite and/or break down crying” looks while interviewing innocent people about the pain of their 9/11-related loss. “When your Dad died, Timmy, how did it feel?” “Did you ever think you’d find love again, Marcy, after your husband went up in flames?” “You lost your daughter on Flight 93, Laura. Do you still think about her?” Of course she does, Barbara Walters/Elizabeth Vargas/Diane Sawyer! It’s all just a bit too much for me. Because my daughter was in the room, I settled on watching the Concert for New York on VH1 and sat amazed while The Who rocked out like nobody’s business. I thought about what the city was like in the aftermath of the attacks, how eerily quiet it was, all of the faces of the missing plastered up everywhere, how they told us to go shopping and spend money so we did.
I thought about the people I spent the day with, how we all found out about the attacks, how my Dad thought I was dead because he knew I worked at Morgan Stanley but didn’t know where, what my roommates went through, one walking home from midtown to Astoria and one frantically trying all day to contact her parents who both worked at the Pentagon. I thought about talking to my then fiance (now ex-husband) on the phone as the plane hit the second tower. I thought about my Greek landlady telling us her people had known this was coming for years, and that’s why she didn’t go into the city to get her hair done that day. (Malaka!) And then I thought about how much time has passed since then, and how important it is in life to be able to move on from tragedy both great and small.
It all felt very zen, very nice. My 5-year-old grabbed her maracas and we rocked out to the concert’s closing number, “Ain’t that America” by John Mellencamp, and then I put her to bed. Afterwards I tuned in – quite accidentally – to 20/20’s “911: Remembrance and Renewal.” And then the floodgates came.
This video is 11 minutes long, but if you haven’t seen this piece, I highly recommend it. Not because it’s maudlin and will make you cry, though it totally will. But because the children featured in this piece are so special, so self-assured and so lovely, they will remind you of the beauty of the human spirit and of how important it is to believe in something larger than yourself. Something like God or eternal love or even the power of human DNA. Enjoy:
Read about 14-year-old Brooke Peters, who created a message of hope in his 9/11 documentary.