Nine years ago today, America marked the anniversary of Sept. 11 for the first time … on Twitter.
9-11 was a very sad day indeed.— Pete (@petekruse) September 11, 2006
The network had been launched just a few months earlier. It wasn’t a hit. And because there was no retweeting or favoriting yet, early adopters had no way to know if their tweets had been hits, either. Every tweet just hung out on the user’s personal feed for a while, then ticked away to make room for the next musing:
it's 9-11 today, shit happened 5 yrs ago.....— Jessica Rabbits (@TinkerbellJessi) September 11, 2006
yah Crystal it's officially 100 degrees in San Jose :(— Jessica Rabbits (@TinkerbellJessi) September 12, 2006
That was a simpler time. The tweeting of Sept. 11 is now an event in and of itself. To be clear, nobody has to tweet about 9/11.
Most people should not tweet about 9/11.
14yrs ago terrorists attacked killing 3000 of us Like 12/7/41"lives in infamy" so will 9/11 2dayJapanese friendly Jihadists want kill us— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) September 11, 2015
And yet every year, thousands of people are compelled to tweet about 9/11, as if not tweeting #NeverForget really means that you forgot. And now, thanks to Twitter’s metrics, everyone can keep track of who’s remembering 9/11 the best:
Not you, Kristin Davis.
Presidential candidates began preparing for the event well in advance. This year, some White House hopefuls have created their own custom-designed Sept. 11 tribute images cut to perfect tweeting size. Each one looks kind of like a tragedy greeting card branded in the candidate’s personal aesthetic. Rand Paul has opted for a sleek, timeless design:
Today, we say a prayer for those who lost their lives and their family members. You will never be forgotten. pic.twitter.com/VjFeQPj7KS— Dr. Rand Paul (@RandPaul) September 11, 2015
And Ben Carson printed his own campaign slogan—“Heal, Inspire, Revive”—over the battered New York City skyline:
Some Republican candidates have chosen to also acknowledge the victims of the other Sept. 11:
On 9/11, we should also pause to remember 4 Americans killed by terrorists in Benghazi, Libya on this day in 2012. They are not forgotten.— Jeb Bush (@JebBush) September 11, 2015
We honor the memory of Amb Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods & Glen Doherty, 4 brave Americans whose service we will #neverforget. -SW— Scott Walker (@ScottWalker) September 11, 2015
Meanwhile, President George W. Bush’s press secretary Ari Fleischer has inserted himself back in the national conversation by staging a real-time retelling of the 9/11 story …
8:46 American Airlines Flight 11, with Mohammed Atta on board, crashes into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.— Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) September 11, 2015
"We're at war Dick and we're going to find out who did this and we're going to kick their ass," Bush told Cheney.— Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) September 11, 2015
… for the third year in a row.
But curiously, the #brands—once eager to commemorate the event on their timelines—are now rethinking their contributions to this annual exercise. Last year, the owner of a Virginia Bikram yoga studio suffered backlash when he tweeted a 9/11-themed discount offer (“9+11= 20 % OFF!”) and then more backlash when he tweeted a conspiratorial nonapology. (“If you want to be upset, research the term ‘911 building 7’ and check the news because they are hearing ‘chatter’ about us getting hit again.”) And in last year’s “A Brand Remembers 9/11,” the Awl mocked Carnival Cruise Lines, White Castle, and Applebee’s for tweeting anodyne tributes in their peppy company voices. All three have yet to tweet in tribute this year.
Did they forget? Or did the humans behind the brands finally recognize how bizarre it is for a fast casual restaurant to claim to “remember” a terrorist attack? In 2015, it seems more appropriate for companies actually affected on Sept. 11—like American and United airlines, which lost passengers and employees on hijacked planes—to say a few words. And yet, even their tributes take the form of blandly generic nods. It’s almost as if social media managers really don’t remember Sept. 11.
In Remembrance: Sept. 11, 2001— United (@united) September 11, 2015
As always, the best tweet about 9/11 is no tweet about 9/11. (Looking good, Hillary Clinton!)
Take The Pledge: "I (state your name), Social Media Manager for (state your #brand), will not tweet about 9/11"— pourmecoffee (@pourmecoffee) September 11, 2015
Unless, of course, Sept. 11 represents not a national tragedy for you, but a personal one. In which case: Tweet whatever you want.