Tuesday, September 11, 2012


[Editor's note. This post is a composite of two earlier posts, one from September 2011 and one from September 2009. Having just written negatively of celebrity worship in my last post, I thought it strangely appropriate to find a reference to celebrities in a solemn post written three years ago. --RWP]

My thoughts are somewhat disjointed today, but I am going to try to blog anyway.

Back in the early years of television, CBS-TV had a weekly program called You Are There in which famous historical events were re-enacted as though television reporters had been present at the time. After introducing the event for the week, the announcer would solemnly intone, “All things are as they were then, except YOU ARE THERE.” It was usually quite informative, sometimes unintentionally ludicrous -- at least, I think it was unintentionally -- but always entertaining. History, as they say, came alive.

I thought of that line today as our nation observed the eighth anniversary of what has come to be known, simply, as 9/11. Most of us lived through it in real time eight years ago. We were there, over and over and over, as television brought it to us, and brought it to us, and continued to bring it to us. It was almost too horrible not to watch. We wanted to make sure that it was real, that what was unthinkable had actually happened. The unimaginable had occurred.

I dislike the idea of recalling tragedies because going through them once is enough, but I suppose it is necessary to remind ourselves of what was lost and to educate the young about their own past. In my parents’ generation, the remembered day was December 7, 1941, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. For my generation, the events seared into memory are the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963, and of both Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1968, the Challenger disaster in 1986, and 9/11 in 2001. Thanks to television, we were there for all of them.

Some people know exactly what they were doing and where they were when they heard that John Lennon had been killed. Some people will feel similarly about the death of Michael Jackson, I’m sure. Some people watch far too much television.

The cult of celebrity is all around us. It’s in the very air we breathe. And although what poet John Donne said is true, that any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind, I prefer to save my grief for more important things than the passing of entertainers.

Today, I grieve.

(Photographs above from “Days of Terror” at nymag.com)

(Photographs above from www.theblackday.org by navexpress)


  1. Perhaps it would have been better for the western world to acknowledge the passing of the 2,996 with love and dignity rather than bloodlust and bullets.

  2. I agree with YP. The events of that day in 2001 lead to rash decisions which you might think was what they were intended to do. Is it a safer world now than it was on 12 September?

  3. Y.P. and S.P., the fact that both Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden are dead has to count for something. Next I suppose you'll be telling me that if Prince Harry happens to be killed while he is in Afghanistan your entire nation wi;l be all moonlight and roses.

  4. "Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden are dead has to count for something" - yes, two! More than 120,000 died in the Iraq war and each week more are added to this grisly total. In Afghanistan the arithmetic is unclear but around 150,000 seems to be the running total of the dead including innocent civilians as well as soldiers from both sides. No moonlight and roses for those poor souls.