A White House press conference revisited.

A White House press conference revisited.

A White House press conference revisited.

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Sept. 15 2006 6:31 PM

Watch What You Say

A White House press conference revisited.

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Ted_Burke also picks up on this dissonance: "in contrast to the host of dramatic framings we've become accustomed to seeing in relation to 9/11, there is an eerie calm here, an image of people who seem to have stolen a moment for themselves to reflect, ponder, digress among themselves while the rest of the world collapses on itself."


Joan remembers 9/11 as a day for grouping spent drinking in a Manhattan bar: "no one really wanted to go home. No one was drunk ... just a bunch of people needing company ... Like those people in Brooklyn." harper64 lashes out at the self-appointed enforcers of an "appropriate" response to the events of that day: "I see nothing wrong with taking a bike ride or taking a nap or getting together with friends to affirm life and community." If anything, the communal impulse was irrepressible, as popzealot recalls:

Groups of families and friends gathered around the biggest TV screen available, sometimes multiple screens with different channels. They ate together, drank together, engaged in discussions, but mostly were silently preoccupied with finding which channels had the most horrific images. That preoccupation, more so than any premature desire to move on, or a callous lack of concern for victims, or even a jingoistic bandwagon, is what every American was doing.

steelbucket cautions against looking too closely for meaning:

The picture shows that something big, and possibly bad, has happened but does the picture imply that the people have really understood the significance of what they are watching or just that they know something is happening and is in fact being discussed by the group?

Initial news reports were understandably confused, as were eye witness accounts. Perhaps we, on this side of the pond, had a better idea of what was actually happening than people in the immediate area. (After all, nobody in the shadow of the towers was going to take time out to watch the news, they had better things to do).

I've noticed that people, and especially firemen, interviewed both close to the event and for subsequent documentaries are changing their stories over time. The facts are the same but the wording and emphasis is changing. Subtly and in very small detail, they are now beginning to remember the events of the day as part of the "9/11 terrorist attack" rather than some big disaster. Many now telling of their experiences now take it as read that it was only a matter of time before the towers would collapse or that it was a terrorist attack, yet it is quite clear that people on the day expected neither.

9/11 as a defining moment/cultural experience or whatever has only come into existance as we have had time to try to put the day's events into some kind of understandable narrative.

As the saying goes, a picture is worth 10,000 words … or at least a few dozen Fray responses. Catch them all in Culturebox. AC10:15pm PDT


Monday, Sept. 11, 2006

"Al Qaeda's instinct for symbol ensured this much success: a nearly global perception that our ability to navigate the world was infinitely more precarious than it had been the day before. The perception was so wide and swift that for the first time in history not space but time became shorthand. If naming a city—Lisbon or Auschwitz—was enough for earlier ages to record deepest shock and horror, the twenty-first century began by naming a date."—FromSusain Neiman's, Evil in Modern Thought.

I'm ready for the day it stops being called just '9/11', or just 'September 11'. It will be the day when someone asks in response to a statement about 9/11, "What year was that?" Why am I ready for that day? Because that will be the day ownership of September 11, 2001 is stripped from the newspapers, the politicians, the puritans, the scoutmasters, the middle-aged merciless spinsters, and handed, free of charge, to history.

Ender, anticipating that day's future.

I heard that the WTC had been hit as I sat in the hallway waiting for my Poetic Diction class to begin. As people arrived and heard what was going on, we were unsure whether to stay for class; but Professor Fallon walked in and sat down to teach us as if it were just another day. Alex came into the classroom in tears and told Professor Fallon that his uncle worked at the Pentagon, and was it OK if he skipped class that day? Professor Fallon told him that would be fine, and calmly asked him if he could also pray for his brother who worked in the World Trade Center. He then opened up a book and taught us Shakespeare's sonnets for an hour and fifteen minutes.

Later that day, classes were all cancelled and we gathered for Mass on South Quad.

Later that week, we heard that Professor Fallon's brother had, indeed, been killed in the attack.

Shakespeare's sonnets will forever remind me of that day and of the way my professor kept going forward, teaching, guiding us in beauty, during such a time of suffering.