Packaging 9/11


It’s inescapable. And of course it should be commemorated. But am I alone in feeling disturbed by the way in which it is being remembered?

There’s a couple of issues here.

One is where you cross the line between honouring the dead and feeding off them. A kind of journalistic vampirism that exploits pain and somehow cheapens it at the same time. At what point do you move from telling survivor stories to forcing them to relive events they would rather forget?

A case in point is coverage of the ‘jumpers’ – those people who leapt off the Trade Centre buildings to certain death. Not only is it difficult to identify them, but for those left behind, it opens up a whole series of questions about the nature of such actions. In what sense could they have been said to have a choice? Given that some view suicide as a mortal sin, this has enormous emotional implications – as does the publication of a human being’s last moments on earth. For many, it has taken many years to come to terms with what happened, and having the old wounds reopened in the name of journalistic integrity, seems tasteless at best.

War and terror are bloody and complicated and inglorious and incomprehensible.  They can’t be summed up by a headline. Who defines victory and according to what criteria? More than 30,000 people, have died in terrorist-related attacks on Pakistan in the last decade. That’s a 9/11 each and every year for ten years. Whole communities have been destroyed, in Iraq as well as America. Every life lost is a tragedy that ripples out, leaving scars and stories we cannot measure.

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