I remember an argument I had with a friend roughly six years ago. 9-11 changed him greatly; it turned him from a merry prankster into somewhat of an angry person. We did not see it in the first few years after the attack on the World Trade Center and we were all still angry and a little scared too. The attitude was a natural response then to that long-held myth of “it can’t happen here” being shredded before our eyes. Once we arrived at the point of this argument, most of us had been able to move on with lingering questions in mind — could it happen again, when might “they” decide to do it, I’m 90% sure this plane trip is safe but that 10% is really bothering me — but not him. He stayed in that angry place, and so when he threw “never forget” in my face for the umpteenth time, like it was a newly-minted revelation that should give me instant enlightenment, I snapped back, “How could I when you never shut up about it?”
Even at this stage of emotional cessation, Americans still are confronted with feelings of sadness, fear, patriotism, jingoism, and protectiveness when it comes to 9-11. You can have conversations about it, but you cannot joke about it. You can swell and fixate upon it but you better not be seen profiting from it…yet there are many who absolutely are profiting from it.
Some got addicted to the unity that occurred on the day of that event, for many seeing for the first time in their lives what a unified country collective looked and behaved like. Sure there was fear. There was also love. There was concern, and also some anger and revenge in there as well, but a generation finally saw what it was like when the mass was all on the same page and even in the misery, there was something seductive about its warmth…probably falsely seductive.
Six years ago I disconnected from a friend because he never could find a way to move from that state which could only be considered a form of lust. For the sake of having something legitimate to be mad about, he chose something to be mad about all the time. Before all that we used to have long, weird, fascinating, convoluted conversations about punk rock, why John Hughes might be (now might have been) an auteur or not, and why Tex Avery was one of animation’s best and sickest minds. The 24-hour 9-11 channel took all of that away. Last I heard, he’s a full-on birther, equating the current president to sleeper agencies for Al Qaida. I am glad to not be a part of those conversations even though I miss the former ones terribly. And so it goes.
I haven’t forgotten 9-11. Probably anyone of a sentient age in 2001 will always remember too, but there will be a generation that came shortly after that who will grow up and be utterly confused by our connection to this, just as we may have been to the sense of shock and fear in the U.S. after Pearl Harbor. We in this generation recognize that attack as a horrible event and a defining one, but we do not feel that sting they felt and cannot share their anger, especially after all our commingled years with Japan. No one forgot Pearl Harbor. No one will forget 9-11. That will never change, but how they pivot to or from the subject necessarily will. We’re humans that way. The question is whether we can not be so consumed more than a decade later that we still shout about it, write in colored chalk on our car windows “9-11 Forever And May Terrorists Burn In Hell,” and continue to dig the trenches.
I lost a good friend in 9-11. He’s still living though.