I have always struggled to know why I, along with many others, watch footage of 911 every year … also several times throughout the year. It seems ghoulish, it seems like we just relive a snuff film in real time every moment. For me, there is a sense of guilt that comes with it because of how it can also induce nostalgia.
For me, I become nostalgic for the year I turned 21, the moment when my youth seemed the most buoyant and yet obnoxious.. and a time when things seemed much more simple.
Ever since the events of that day occurred headlines about it have been taken over by Xenaphobia, warmongers, and conspiracy theories of all nature. If you were listening to the talking heads and pundits, then you most likely have been told the exact reason why 9/11 occurred. Some will give you the backstory on the government officials that they believe were actually behind it.
Others will tell you about how we should have bombed Middle Eastern countries to smithereens because of their support of the terrorists. A few may point out how inept American leadership was in the summer leading up to the event. Remember that memo given to Bush during his August vacation ??
We do this all the time, we relive the nasty events and try to shad them in a civilized way. People strive to bring some common sense and normalcy of thought progression as to why things occurred.
But I don’t believe that is why we watch footage of 9/11, and not why we relive the same 102 minutes time after time.
I actually think the reason is quite simple.
For the raw emotion.
The true and visceral raw emotion that it brings, it seems real. We can relive those days when commercials along with TV coverage of the mundane and trivial was all we cared about. September 11 was the end of the Seinfeld era, the conclusion of the decade about nothing. Stock markets were strong, mortgage loans being given out like candy.. the conclusion came, though, and the piper was paid.
I can recall the footage of the today show one Bryant Gumbel was cautiously curious as to why some would say the second plane flying into a building was a purposeful act. Because we were naïve, because we were innocent. A generation that grew up lost in space forgot the space that they were in. The dotcom bubble was first, then everything burst at 9 AM on September 11th..
When I watch coverage from those moments, when I view the footage again, and when I relive my own emotions and memories from that day, I don’t do it in any joy of those who perished.
When viewing those television moments prior to the breaking news, I actually feel in some strange way like 911 will not happen. When I watch the footage of the ‘Everybody loves Raymond’ interview on CBS before the first plane hit, or the fact that Nokia stock was up 5% and Motorola was closing on CNN, I feel like the next moments actually will not occur.
Because we all know what occurs next, we all know the planes crash and that the Pentagon is it in that building is fall down, that President Bush is flown around the nation and Dick Cheney is in a bunker in no mans land. We all know that the speaker of the house is rushed out of DC and that news coverage comes to grips with the fact that their world, along with ours, has been changed forever with them only mere seconds.
But we still watch, and I don’t believe we watch because it’s fun. I believe we watch because even to this day we have not come to grips with this moment and we have not been able to actually make sense of what we saw.
We’ve gone to war, we debated who is behind the events, we have become divided as a nation and almost 20 years later a much more racist and bigoted world. None of it had to happen, but it did. And we watch the coverage of this day to feel that true and raw emotion because somehow perhaps we get united in our sadness in our anger. Even if it’s only for 102 minutes and it goes away once the replay on YouTube has ended.