Odds Without Ends

Although it’s been six years, I still remember 9/11 as if it happened yesterday.

The looks on my friends’ faces, the announcement made over my high school loudspeaker – every little detail still seems so vivid and clear.

Life as we know it changed that day, especially for a New Yorker such as myself. Nearly all of my friends and acquaintances knew at least one person who was in the Twin Towers that day, whether it be fathers, mothers, siblings, or family friends.

As for me, my cousin’s husband was a fireman who heroically went into the North Tower that tragic morning. He made it out with some wounds, but luckily escaped with his life.
Having the 9/11 tragedy hit so close to home, and having a hero in my own family, helped me realize how brave and courageous those firefighters, civilians, and policemen truly were.

In the weeks and months after that day, I saw the heroes of the World Trade Center honored and remembered, from charity concerts, benefits and fundraisers, to political speeches and rallies. It seemed as if 9/11, with all the media attention it had garnered, had successfully united a torn nation, one that had been seriously divided just a year earlier from the 2000 Presidential election.

Six years later, we see our country more divided than ever. What happened to that unity?

Although the events of September 11 initially proved monumental in bringing us together, there have been more than a few occasions in which its image, and those of its heroes, has been used and exploited for political ends, which ultimately has divided our nation.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is perhaps the best example. His campaign for the presidency hinges entirely on his actions during 9/11, and his speeches have reflected this dependency; nearly every public statement or televised debate with the former mayor has had more than its fair share of September 11 references.

Giuliani does deserve some praise. After all, his actions throughout the entire month following 9/11 were swift and seamless, not to mention the way he informed New Yorkers of ongoing details.

But back in mid August, the former mayor crossed the line, stating that he had “been at Ground Zero as much, if not more, than most of the workers.”

A New York Times report soon followed, showing that Giuliani had spent around 29 hours from September to December of 2001 at Ground Zero – far less than the majority of hard-working civilians that dedicated their time, and health, to cleaning the World Trade Center wreckage.

Giuliani deserves a lot of credit for even spending any time at Ground Zero during the reconstruction, but his aggressive, and misleading, assertion only serves as an example of how 9/11 has been misused in the political sphere; it is a complete disservice to the heroes of that day, and those who helped with reconstruction.

The political left has also abused 9/11, with some spinsters and pundits trying to prove that President Bush somehow knew that the attacks would happen, but did nothing, just as many accused Roosevelt of doing with Pearl Harbor.

Watching these politicians and “analysts” over the last six years has been disheartening, and has effectively turned 9/11 into a divisive issue, not the great unifier it should be.

But the debates surrounding 9/11 are not just political. A September 2 New York Times article showed that many civilians have begun arguing whether or not 9/11 should even be commemorated at all, saying that five years of tribute was enough.

This debate’s very existence shows how twisted that tragedy’s image has become.

One day, decades down the line, 9/11 will be remembered more for its political controversy than the tragedy it truly was. Just like with Pearl Harbor, generations will come and go and forget a large part of the emotional impact that came with September 11.

But it’s only been six years. Has 9/11 already become simply a topic of debate rather than a means of pulling our country together?

This year, as our nation commemorated September 11, I wasn’t thinking about the debate over the day’s tribute, whether Giuliani had spent enough time at Ground Zero, or whether George Bush had prior knowledge of the terrorist attacks.
Instead, my thoughts were with my cousin’s husband, and the thousands of other heroes from that day. Maybe, just maybe, when we can put an end to the misuse of 9/11 for political agendas, will their image truly be honored.