Sep 11, 2011

9-11-01: Ten Years On

As of late, I have become well aware with an anniversary that manages to not only make me feel old, but very self-reflective. If you can read this text, it's very well possible this means something to you as well. It's impossible for it not to.

A few days ago, I was in the grocery store looking at the magazine rack. People Magazine had a picture of a ten year old child on the cover with an article titled "The Children of 9-11" and promised to be an article about children who had significant losses on September 11, 2001.
It had me thinking about that time and what it meant to me. Truthfully, I don't think I grasped the concept for years. It's true I understood the impact, but the significance? I didn't wake up on that day and feel shocked. I was mostly confused. I had seen plane crashes in movies and television before. What made this one significant?
Mind you, I was a 12 year old Catholic boy who had yet to really establish his opinion of the world. I didn't understand political views, nor perceived the possibilities of different religions. I just knew what school taught me: geography, math, english, and art. However, that plane crash really baffled me. I was aware of Robert Kennedy's plane crash years before, so to me, it was just another one.
It was also hard to gauge socially. I had just moved to a new school and I hadn't learned anyone's idiosyncrasies. In truth, I didn't notice anything different besides occasional absences and people paranoid about Los Angeles attacks (okay, that got me a little suspicious). The world felt like a 10% heightened version of itself from last month to me, and I wasn't really bugged.
After two weeks, I noticed that I couldn't watch Jeopardy! at 7 like I normally did. I remember telling my mother "Why are they still showing this? We have to move on with our lives."
Of course, that was more a quote about how I wanted to watch Jeopardy!, but it's something the country would grasp after Rudy Guilliani hosted Saturday Night Live with the firefighters that helped on September 11. Even the telethon to raise money for victims, for me, felt more like a chance to see a bunch of famous people entertain. I actually enjoyed it. Probably one of my favorite telethons ever.

As I have stated, being 12 was possibly a benefit to surviving September 11. I hadn't lost anyone significant. While I knew New York was part of the United States, I felt no immediate threat. I had no political ties to persuade me of who was wrong (though thanks to my co-worker Omar's obsession with talk radio, I became well aware of everything that happened since). I didn't have anything to worry about. I didn't know what a real tragedy was. I couldn't grasp that at 12.
Looking back, there is no one unrelated to me that I can turn to and discuss a day during that time we experienced together. I hadn't met my best friend Alex until the following year. I suppose that period wasn't bleak, but it's more a relic that only memories can bring up. Especially since Myspace wasn't around to fill that void.
Time progressed and for the most part, I got used to the undertones of a society that was now a little on edge. In truth, I never remembered experiencing a racist argument, which could be the benefit of going to a Catholic school. The rest went like this: we went back to living our lives and doing what kids do.

It is bizarre. While I cannot really remember feeling any emotional conflict that day, I do remember that celebrating the date every year was poignant for me. Even if it was seen as a status update for our progress in the war, that day was pretty special, and I cannot help but wonder what the tenth anniversary will be like.

I am a terrible choice to write a remembrance blog for September 11. My memory before that time is very scattershot. I know parts of the lower grades, but not enough to build an emotional arc featuring a significant loss. I hardly had any ties to make me interested in making it a big deal.
I even loathe people that consider it a conspiracy. I remember sitting in a classroom in high school after hours, and Jonathan and Alex P. had a tape explaining how the events were a conspiracy. I ducked out because I just cannot waste time with that. I accepted that some angry people hijacked planes and destroyed the Twin Towers. I didn't need to believe that George Bush was the leader, or whatever the arc was.
I did, however, buy into the gimmick of a movie called Fahrenheit 9-11. We had come into ownership of that movie after my Great Uncle Tommy died in 2005. I remember going to the theaters and seeing it playing across the hall. I could hear patriotic noises coming from inside. I even was into movie analysis at the time, and was curious to know why everyone wanted to see a movie by a guy who got booed off the stage at the Oscars the previous year.
As of this date, I haven't finished it. I began watching it, and sure enough, it felt like fiction. I couldn't grasp the idea that these were legitimate facts. I had someone on Myspace that owned Felony Records tell me it was a Republican's worst nightmare. I guess. I never hated Bush as much as some people. However, I felt director Michael Moore was the bigger bully in that piece and I still consider it the worst documentary I've probably seen (if I finish it ever, I may update the comments). It kept me from seeing his movies for a good four years. He's a decent director at persuasive fictional arguments, but that movie, I believe, will brainwash a future generation (who may see that as a cornerstone to pop culture of 9-11) the same way there's actually Holocaust deniers.

The truth is, I know that September 11 has been part of my everyday life since 2001, but I don't feel the impact mostly because I didn't have an influential background where I knew what freedom meant (in the big picture). Most of the way I perceived the world was gathered after the events, including my lack of tolerance for bad benefit singles, like that All-Star tribute that ripped off Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On."
It was terrible, right? I learned early on that ripping off classic soul songs wasn't that great. I felt it would shape my views on music, including why I could never buy Rihanna's music because the instrumental element was too distracting and tore apart any authenticity. However, in truth, the Hurricane Katrina stuff was worse.

As for everything else, I think subliminally I was influenced by people living in a post-September 11 world. I owned both "Rock Against Bush" albums because they had some great songs (not the liner note's message), I enjoyed George Carlin's ramblings about society since then. To me, majority of the stuff from the 90's seems more like a time lost. I cannot relate to people getting excited about WWF or Vanilla Ice. Both seem like douche bags to me.

I can go on, but this blog was mostly set up to try and reveal what has changed with me since that date. I cannot figure out where to start. I felt like a tourist to society those first few years, and I saw the picture that the aftermath painted and felt it play out more like a museum visit: informative, but distant.
That's not to say I didn't get anything out of it. I think that the events were terrible, but I mostly cite Jonathan Ames' "The Alcoholic" as being one of the few things that stand out about the events. In the book, Ames is an alcoholic who decides to sober up after the events, realizing his life is more significant. To me, that's what I gradually experienced afterwards. I may never be able to feel the patriotism most felt after that day, but I realize now that we shouldn't be toiling over nonsense when worse things are happening.
However, the one thing that has stayed with me since those days has been my ability to not jump to societal conclusions. I do my best not to be racist, and I don't listen to music that my friends listen to if I think it's shit. I essentially have managed to avoid mob rule in all ways. I'm not a rebel, but I have an identity, something I feel majority of my age group lost in high school. I didn't hop onto iPods until I was ten models behind. I refused to glorify grammatical errors. I refused to check out trends.
And maybe that's a reflection of me being behind the times, but in truth, most of my life from September 11, 2001 is gone. A memory. I don't have any friends to recollect with. I just have the ability to bridge on. I've grown significantly since then. I've discovered authentic love, getting emotionally attached to the third act of a movie, and not believing what they say about the president (which felt more like popular opinion rather than personal truth).
Oddly, I've never been to a majority of the East Coast, so it still remains mostly a picture of a distant land. I cannot recall a personal before and after. I have more connection to the areas by my old house being torn down than those days. For the most part, it explains my detachment to situations if it isn't personal or relate-able. If you have an answer, I'd like to know.

So, what does September 11 mean to me? I think it's the one tragedy that has been a constant through my memory and life. While my life has grown to know people personally connected, not having that rooted somewhere really makes it hard to not see it as more than, say, the attack on Pearl Harbor. I understand it's tragic tones, but it doesn't consume me.
I think September 11 may also have helped me to develop a tolerance to bad news that causes me to not be moved. Even Osama Bin Laden's death, for me, was surprising, but was nothing for me but dumb punchlines. I think I'm more intrigued by progress after the events than the incident. That can be the only explanation.

Oh, how I wish I could've had a logical, emotional story to share with you about these days. I feel like the cheapskate who offers nothing but a numbing, secondary account. I suppose that's the trouble with being 12 on September 11, 2001 without a grasp of the external world where I don't perceive it as more than an event, a bookmark, to update my social consciousness.

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