This month marked the 13th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that also saw a plane go down outside of Pittsburgh. Nearly 3,000 people died that day because of the attacks, and 6,000 more were injured. To this day, there are many rescue workers who suffer from mental, respiratory and cancerous diseases that can be traced back to the events of that day. Not to mention the countless families torn apart by the loss of loved ones in the most horrific and deadly attack on American soil since just shy of 2,500 people died in the attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941.
The legacy of the Sept. 11 attacks still remains relevant as the years go by, but honoring those who died and memorializing the tragic events of the day has proven to be confusing for the national conscious. Do we move on or focus on the damage done? Do we progress or remain scared and bitter? Thirteen years removed and conflicting attitudes regarding the issue are abound.
A simple trip to what was once Ground Zero, or the World Trade Center Site, reveals as much. On the one hand, the National September 11th Memorial is a pair of beautiful fountains with a morose, yet solemn, Vietnam Memorial-inspired inscription of the names of the nearly 3,000 victims of the day’s atrocities.
On the other hand, the fountains are quite literally two massive holes in the ground intended to symbolize the enormous physical and societal void created by the violence of a handful of extremists. Instead of showing the world that America can recover from anything, we made sure to leave two gaping wounds where the heart of a nation had been torn out years earlier.
That being said, across the street is an incredible display of American strength, prowess and recovery: One World Trade Center, standing at an extremely patriotic height of 1,776 feet tall. For every building destroyed or damaged that day, we should have built one just as big as One World Trade. That would have done the victims more justice.
Should the names of the fallen be displayed and memorialized? Of course. The way it has been accomplished, however, was a mistake. Two holes in the ground serves as a constant reminder of one of the darkest and most damaging days in American history. The monument does not symbolize the healing and recovery of a nation. Instead it projects the sensibility that America will never fully recover. This is not the case and it is borderline disgraceful that image exists just yards away from such a great symbol of recovery.
Then there is the museum. The National September 11th Museum is perhaps the most significant point of contradiction in a single entity one can find when it comes to honoring the memory of Sept. 11. The museum’s creation came about in order to educate about and help memorialize the events of the fateful day which gave the museum its namesake. It is a noble cause, but clearly, a misguided one.
The museum charges $24 a ticket, has a museum store and pays its 11-member senior staff upwards of $170,000 a year, including $400,000 to its president. When complaints about profiteering off of tragedy were brought up, 9/11 Memorial Foundation Chairman and billionaire Michael Bloomberg responded by telling people to “write your congressman” for more federal funding.
Did I mention there is a museum store for a museum dedicated to the greatest civilian tragedy in American history? Feel free to pick up a 9/11 Memorial Museum hoodie for the dirt-cheap and completely and totally respectful price of $39.00. Or, better yet, peruse the personal accessories category on the store website and pick up a $75.00 Brooks Brothers silk tie for pops when you go home for Thanksgiving.
The hypocrisy, disrespect and conflicting memorials at Ground Zero alone shows the incredible confusion the American conscious has with honoring Sept. 11. Elsewhere, society is unsure if we have reached the point where comedy can utilize the attacks as a punchline. The Onion, America’s foremost satirical media outlet, was very cautious when approaching the anniversary this year, running one article poking fun at post-Sept. 11 policy changes and baseball, and then another article about puppies growing up in a post-Sept. 11 era.
Louie C.K., a comedian famous for being particularly raunchy and going out of his way to present himself as an unpleasant person, has been telling a joke since at least 2008 involving the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11 attacks in proximity to a masturbation session. Many have deemed satire in relation to a tragedy such as Sept. 11 to be unnecessary and disrespectful, but humor is an outlet for grief and a way to show recovery as a collective conscious.
Barring over-saturation or the direct mockery of victims of the tragedy, humor and acceptance of said humor regarding Sept. 11 should be enjoyed without regret or self-loathing. This is a sign of growth and strength, that we, the American people, are capable of bouncing back from such a damaging singular event to the point where we can discuss it with levity and not suffer from permanent scarring of a nation’s personality.
Honor the victims and the innocence of a generation lost when appropriate, but continue to develop and move on from tragedy. Do not be disappointed in oneself for failing to honor and memorialize the day’s events or laughing at a dumb joke. Embrace the fact that the capability to do such things is there and that means we have recovered. Build 1,776 foot towers and heal wounds. Do not leave gaping holes or allow the tragedy to continue to affect us greatly.
Never forget what happened on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, but additionally, never forget the goals of those who perpetrated the horrific crimes that took place. They wanted America to stumble and be crippled with grief (among other things). Stand tall and stride forward, away from the tragic past and into the promising future.