11 September 2014

Anniversary 9/11

This op-ed originally ran in The State newspaper in Columbia, SC on 9/17/03.

Watching and listening to the media coverage of September 11th is pretty painful for me, but probably not for the reason you're thinking. It's a reminder of a world-changing event that causes the nation to pause and reflect on our burdens and sacrifices. As for myself? I just get mad, and I'll tell you why.
A random sampling of what was on the morning TV shows on the 11th. NBC and ABC remembering their own broadcasts of the footage as events unfolded in New York, interspersed with shots of the children at Ground Zero. CNN covering the same Ground Zero, with less discussion of what they were doing that day. MSNBC had Imus talking about 9-11 with Tom Brokaw, and Fox News had their talking heads going over the sacrifices of New York and the heroism of Todd Beamer. Local news radio observed the moment of silence at 8:46, when the plane hit the first tower; they also observed a moment for the second plane.
What didn't you hear? What didn't you see? What was never mentioned?
That's right. The Pentagon. No discussion of the sailors, soldiers, airmen, and marines who lost their lives at the Pentagon. None, zip, zero, zilch.
I should expect this, though. It's been going on since September 11. Every mention of terrorism in the media today starts with Oklahoma City, and might mention the USS Cole and the embassies in Africa, on their way to talking about "Ground Zero" and the "World Trade Center Attacks." Even the vocabulary with which we discuss 9-11 is colored by our genuflections toward New York. Todd Beamer's name is nationally known because he led the charge to the cockpit on the fourth plane. What do we call the attack on the Pentagon? Who were the heroes of Washington, DC?
America has turned a blind eye toward the victims of terrorism not associated with New York City and Oklahoma City. Is there an annual memorial for the marines who died in Beirut? What about the Achillie Lauro hijacking? The TWA flight where a Navy SEAL's body was unceremoniously dumped on the tarmac in the Middle East? The Rome and Vienna Christmas airport massacres? The Berlin nightclub bombing? The bombing of the military exchange in Frankfurt? Lockerbie, Scotland?
We don't discuss the tragic American victims of terror that didn't happen on our own soil.  It's almost as if they aren't worthy of recognition, or memorialization because their deaths happened over there. The worst ones are the military victims, especially the victims of the Pentagon on 9-11. The attitude seems to be "they are the military, that's their job." As if they signed up to walk around with targets on their backs.
When baseball resumed play in 2001, John Franco led the New York Mets onto the field with an "FDNY" cap on; the entire team wore either "FDNY" or "NYPD" caps. Who took the field wearing military headgear? Who made a public, televised statement of support for the families of the dead at the Pentagon?
September 11 is frustrating and tragic for everyone. But it is especially frustrating and tragic when 25% of the attack is dismissed by the coverage, the memorials, the general discourse, for reasons unknown, but seemingly related to the career choices of the victim.

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