Ten years ago today I was getting ready for a doctor's appointment. They were going to pay me for being a medical experiment; also known as a participant in a clinical trial. I was excited about it and had woken up early. Perhaps through this research doctors would find a way to help people like me all around the world.
Just as I was about to hop into the shower my mother called and told me not to bother. She told me to turn on the TV instead. I vividly remember being obstinate about it. To the point where she had to proclaim, "WE'RE UNDER ATTACK!" for me to finally obey. In all honesty I figured she was just having a mom-like over reaction to something minor.
Disgruntled by the vague yet insistent phone conversation, I grabbed the remote and flipped on the TV. I recall asking her what channel she wanted me to go to before realizing it didn't matter. The action movie I thought was on TV was real life. I had managed to turn it on right as the second plane struck. My brain couldn't put two and two together fast enough. My confusion exited my body in the form of, "Wait... what?"
I don't even remember sitting down on the sofa, I think it was an automatic natural reaction to what I was witnessing. I didn't move from that spot for hours, though it seemed like seconds. I didn't know what else to do with myself.
Immediately all of the nearby major cities went into lock down. This meant all of my loved ones were stuck at work or school unable to go home. Phone lines became sketchy at best from the sudden traffic overload making it hard for the people stranded at work or school to call their families to let them know they were okay. All of this was followed by a media black hole of shock and awe footage for 48 hours before anything actually relevant was disclosed.
I, like many others, had friends or family in all three affected locations and no way to reach them. It would be hours before cities would finally let people come or go. It would be days before the media would start releasing names. Names of both those who survived as well as those who did not. Until then it was little more than a 24/7 news reel that showed us nothing but the same few clips of planes crashing and the chaos left behind, over and over again. As if we needed the point driven home further.
It took us a matter of days to determine that my aunt, who worked in the Pentagon, was in fact a missing person. Weeks would become months before they had finally retrieved all of the bodies from the rubble. Some miraculously clinging to life, others who had died on impact. My aunt's funeral would be closed-casket. Not because what was inside was simply too unbearable to look upon, but because the casket was empty. Her body had never been found.
People who lost someone that day do not need a day of the year to remember. They remember every day. Every time they notice the empty place setting at the dinner table. Every time they look through the collection of family photos. Every holiday thereafter that that sole person wasn't there for. They're reminded constantly. The hype surrounding this day of the year, particularly as thrown-in-your-face as the media makes it, is disrespectful. We know. Everyone knows. They do not need to remind us. We do not need to see the burning buildings and screaming masses trying to flee to remember.
The media treats it like an excuse to collect ad revenue and more coverage time. Politicians treat it as an excuse to be reelected while simultaneously refusing to render government aid to first-responders from that day. Companies use it as an excuse to sell you 9/11 related trinkets. It is absurd and it is insulting. A national tragedy should never be used as an excuse to make money or push your own agenda. It is a day of remembrance. It should be treated as such.
Fly your flags at half mast. Say a prayer if that's your thing. Write about it sincerely. Observe a moment of silence. Light candles. Visit the graves of those you've lost. But for the love of humanity, do not buy any 9/11 memorabilia, do not tune in to the 24 hour news feeds, and definitely do not cast votes for any politician using the event as a crutch for actual politics -- especially if they voted against helping 9/11 first responders (even if they later changed their mind).