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September 11, One Year Later

by Neena Louise

It's hard to believe it has been a year since "September 11th" came to mean something other than a day in late summer. It is a different world we live in, where security is everywhere and we all have to be wary when it comes to where we travel, what we say and whom we associate with. It's a sad commentary (and a bit of a perversity) on the freedoms we cherish, but which have now waned in their priority.

On this most solemn of anniversaries, I was horrified that television swallowed the entire day (on most stations) with programming on the atrocities of a year ago. It was unsettlingly like a celebration of violence and I am appalled, not only by television giving into its exploitive nature, but also that we still have not learned that most fundamental of lessons: DO NOT GIVE THE TERRORISTS THE ATTENTION THEY CRAVE. The horrors of a year ago could have been noted on television with the broadcast of the ceremonies - we did not need a full TV day devoted entirely to those cowardly terrorists and what they did.

Perhaps it is in our nature to celebrate death (as could be observed by the distasteful media circus surrounding the 25th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death), but this occasion is different. It is not just death we are noting, we are also acknowledging the terrorists' acts as significant. Yes, they wounded us terribly, but why in heaven's name would we want to validate these acts and the people behind them? Because that's exactly what we're doing by preoccupying ourselves (not only with television, but radio, newspapers and the Internet) with what happened a year ago.

I, for one, turned my television off immediately after the tasteful and moving ceremonies (during which I kept impotently shrieking "SHUT UP!" to the commentaters that babbled incessantly), but highly resented being forced to switch off simply because the media are unable to control themselves. We've been tortured with special after special, news piece after news piece, story after story on the attacks during the past year. The last thing anyone needs is more (and more and more) of the same. Unlike other occasions where we are supersaturated with stories about an event, rather than become desensitized, I find myself more and more upset as I'm subjected to story after story. I just can't bear any more - least of all a WHOLE DAY.

And if I can't bear it, imagine what it must be like for the families of those who lost loved ones in the attacks. A "day of remembrance" turned into a "week-long extravaganza" on television, with endless plugs and hype of upcoming September 11th programming. From what I've read lately, those who were most deeply affected by the tragedy intended to take their children to the beach, or to quietly celebrate the lives of their loved ones with friends and relations. They had no intentions of staying home to huddle around the television set and relive the horror. How sad, then, that for a week they were subjected to all those promos invading every show on television. We all grieve and remember in different ways, at different rates - we do not need television to tell us how, nor for how long.

How are we to move on with the constant, unrelenting reminders of what happened and all we lost? Yes, the attacks brought out the finest in people. Yes, we should celebrate courage, humanity and acts of kindness to strangers. Yes, we should congratulate ourselves on our resilience, patriotism and resolve. But no, we do not need to relive the attacks on a minute-by-minute basis again and again. Tragedy is not entertainment, no matter how hard the media tries to make it so. Most of us have at least started to moved on. We will never, ever forget (as if we could), but even those that lost loved ones have begun to learn to cope with the loss and carry on. THAT is the message we should be sending the terrorists. Not "you did such a great job, we can't stop talking about it."

If we simply stop watching, television ratings would plunge and the endless, disgustingly exploitive September 11th hype-o-rama would mercifully cease. Let's hope when the second year anniversary of September 11th comes around, television will put its ad revenues aside for a day, be a little more positive and a lot more tasteful.
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