Remember 9/11 but don’t forget the rest

Ten years ago I was working the night shift in a call centre. I had been up kind of late the night before and a phone call before 9am was not what I wanted, but it’s what I got. My initial reaction to news of a plane hitting the World Trade Center was blunt: “Yeah right, Jerry, I’m trying to sleep.”

But he insisted that he wasn’t joking and that I turn on the TV. After a bit of groaning, I left my bed that I had only reached a few hours prior, went into the living room and clicked on the tube. It wasn’t hard to find what he was talking about. There it was, smoke coming out of the iconic building.

A few minutes later, I wasn’t fully awake but still on the phone trying to rationalize what I was seeing. Then live on my TV, a plane slammed into the other tower. After another phone call, this one to my boss to confirm what I already knew, that I wasn’t working that night (our clients were in the US), I settled in for a morning, afternoon and early evening of watching the TV in disbelief.

I doubt I’ll devote nearly as much time, if any at all, to coverage this year. It’s not because the event wasn’t important. Far from it. Three thousand people killed in a matter of seconds is absolutely horrific. The thousands of deaths in the two wars that followed from this event are equally as tragic. The loss of freedom through laws like the now-defunct Patriot Act, “enhanced interrogation techniques” and even things as seemingly unimportant as not being able to bring shampoo on an airplane or having to get a passport to cross the border by bus or car are also unfortunate consequences of 9/11.

It’s certainly an event that should be remembered and a loss of life that should be mourned. Mourned on any day, not just today. It’s also not the only tragedy that’s happened in the past few decades or even the only tragedy that happened on today’s date. In fact there are quite a few 9/11’s throughout history, the most  notable  being what happened in Chile.

Chile, Sept. 11, 1973
On September 11th, 1973, Augusto Pinochet’s well-funded and CIA-backed forces overthrew democratically-elected Chilean president Salvador Allende in a military coup. This ushered in a brutal 17-year dictatorship responsible for over 3000 deaths and tens of thousands of people tortured and unjustifiably arrested. The regime even killed dissidents that had made it to the US.

While I’m sure people remember this event, I’m also sure that there won’t be any wall-to-wall coverage. In fact, I don’t imagine any mention of what’s been called the “other 9/11” showing up on mainstream North American media today (or any other day for that matter).

I also don’t anticipate other tragedies that did get major media coverage like the recent rampage in Norway or any recent earthquakes, Tsunamis or even Hurricaine Katrina getting a mention today. And why should they? They aren’t still happening. Well, 9/11 isn’t still happening either.

Anniversaries are important; if you don’t think so, then you probably don’t care if someone forgets your birthday. They make it possible for us to collectively commemorate important events. But it’s important to remember that they are only symbolic markers of events and not the events themselves.

The main reason I was glued to my TV ten years ago wasn’t just disbelief, it was sheer desire to know what the hell was going on. That’s not the case this time around. I know what’s going on. There will be memorials and rememberances and stories.

They should be covered, just not with the same furvor of the actual event as it was unfolding a decade ago.

I just hope that we don’t ignore what’s happening now and overlook other tragedies. I hope we rememer that what happened in 2001 is history and not still a live event.

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