Monday, September 11, 2006

The Anniversary

Five years have passed since the 9-11 attacks. I'm not sure why anniversaries which end in fives are considered more meaningful to people, maybe it's because five years represents half a decade. Like any seminal event, we can't help but reflect on what we were doing on that day.

I was living in East Central Illinois and teaching in a small school district. We didn't have cable hookups in the elementary--the internet was overloaded with traffic--so our only source of news was instant messaging from the mother of the woman with whom I shared a classroom. Being in the midwest, no one had any particular sense of personal threat since it all seemed to be happening on the east coast. Still, we were upset and agitated and it was difficult to concentrate on teaching. I thought that school should have been closed. We had parents calling to ask us what we were doing to keep their children safe. FYI--if I thought MY kids were at risk, I wouldn't be calling to see what the school was doing to keep them safe--I'd be picking them up and keeping them safe myself. Maybe that's just me.

At the end of the day I left and finally got real news in the form of my car radio. Even the music stations had gone to all talk. I remember the station I listened to had a live feed from CBS and I listened to Dan Rather's descriptions of the attacks. I lined up to get gas, because the attack had sparked a panic in the town which led to a huge increase in prices. I think I paid $1.98 a gallon which at the time was outrageous. I was really concerned about the potential for gas shortages because I commuted 80 miles a day round trip. That gas station was later fined for price gouging. Hooyaw! They deserved it.

The next week was spent watching the coverage on all the networks. At first, I couldn't get enough. Finally, the media went past the tipping point of their coverage into the absurd. I've often thought the media milked the story just that tad bit too long so that I didn't appreciate what they were doing any longer. I was just irritated by it. Does that make sense? When there was no new "news" 24 hour a day coverage for 7-8 days after the event--it was time to try to return to normal but the media had difficulty letting go. They enjoy being important too much. Whenever we have a national event, the media bandwagon wants to play for far longer than people want to watch. In light of the today's anniversary that seems a bit harsh, perhaps, but aren't we seeing something of the same thing again in this anniversary coverage? A wallowing in the event which is emotional not informative or factual. Emotion shouldn't take the place of analysis or research. We need to LEARN--not emote. Think about Katrina coverage--or the day JFK Jr.'s plane went missing...or Lacey Peterson. News coverage is essentially media wallowing now.

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