This is yesterday’s post, because yesterday I filled my day with reorganizing my bookshelves, trying not to listen to Fox “News”, and studying up on my new camera. Also, I realized how very much my life is insulated from television.
Eleven years and one day ago, I watched a plane hit the World Trade Center and the towers fall, all from my hotel room in San Diego. Every station played this on an endless loop, and because I wanted to know if more acts of terror took place, I felt obliged to leave the set on. By about ten o’clock that night, though, I turned on the Disney Channel, because while I really didn’t care to be alone with my thoughts, the footage was making my insane. Thank god for Disney and their attempt to create a happy space in the middle of the real world, because they came through with an insipid string of not-at-all-interesting-but-not-at-all-about-the-World-Trade-Center shows.
In the days following 9-11, I rode a Greyhound bus home, and when we stopped at the bus terminals, I’d catch a sliver of news about the attacks and, of course, the now-iconic video of the towers shuddering and collapsing.
I didn’t see footage of the towers after that bus ride. I deliberately tuned it out, wouldn’t watch, didn’t need to see it. I saw it the first time; I will not forget. Watching it over and over again, I feared, would desensitize me, and while I cared not to repeat the experience, I didn’t want to grow inured to the things that happened that day. I didn’t ever want to look at footage of the towers smoking or collapsing and have it not register in my mind that I was bearing witness to the end of America as I knew it. This, of course, was made easier by the fact that after 2002 I’ve only had cable or broadcast television a handful of times.
Yesterday, I found out I had succeeded. El Cap’s parents are visiting and he always hooks up cable when they visit, so we had the television on Fox “News.” I knew, of course, what day it was. Every year I remember that morning in blazing grey detail. Yesterday, though, I looked up from my post in the kitchen and, for the first time since the days following 9-11 I saw the planes, the smoke, and the towers.
It was a punch in the gut. I felt raw and breathless. More upsetting than that was the realization that I was the only one in the room who felt that way. This footage, for everyone else, was background noise. It didn’t shock them, at least not visibly. The building with gaping hole in its side, bleeding grey smoke, didn’t even appear to register.
I feel reasonably certain that I, not they, was the anomaly in America yesterday. America, it seems, is desensitized to the whole affair. We still talk about 9-11, we still honor the memories of those who died on that day and since, and we still say we remember.
We just don’t feel it.
Well done, media. Well done.