9/11 and Ritual Re-Watching

Every year since 2006, on this day, MSNBC re-airs the Today Show broadcast from September 11, 2001. 

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This strikes me, every time, in part because that is exactly how I experienced it.  I was house-sitting for a friend that week, one of the perks of which was being able to do my laundry at her house and skip a morning at the public laundromat.

I was stuffing whites into the washer when Katie and Matt were on the phone with a woman in lower Manhattan as the second plane struck the tower.  I called my husband, at work in Chicago two hours away, who started watching television with his co-workers, coming home on a nearly deserted train much later in the day.  I folded the dark load and couldn’t take my eyes off the screen as Ron Insana appeared on set covered in ash.  Later in the day I was back at home, still watching, as WTC 7 collapsed in the background and hoards of people started running toward the camera.

I don’t know what to think about the fact that MSNBC re-airs the whole morning every year.  Is it necessary?  Helpful?  Educational?  Propaganda?  Is it ritual remembrance?  Is this now a part of practicing civil religion in the United States?

I know that for some people it is disturbing to see the images again, to see the plane hit the tower again, to hear the confusion as Matt Lauer tries to determine if the tower actually fell or if a piece of it just peeled away.

Dan Abrams writes about the decision at NBC to re-air it beginning in 2006 here.  Among other things, he says:

Some have called it gruesome or ghoulish, even referring to it as “death porn“. Maybe so, but it also really happened. New York City is spending well over a half billion dollars to create a memorial to ensure we never forget that day. What better way to assure that happens, than by watching the event, as it happened for most, on television?  It’s powerful and disturbing because it’s so real. Simply put, there is no way to sanitize that day, and to do so would be a disservice.

I don’t know.

What do you think? 

 

About Caryn Riswold

Caryn D. Riswold is a feminist theologian in the Lutheran tradition. She is Professor of Religion and Chair of Gender and Women’s Studies at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois, where she has worked for over a decade teaching undergraduates to think critically and creatively about religion. She earned her Ph.D. and Th.M. from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, holds a master’s degree from the Claremont School of Theology, and received her B.A. from Augustana College in her childhood hometown of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

  • Florence V Davis

    I know it’s real, and we do need to remember. But not just remember the attack and the horror of that day. We should also remember that other countries were also grieving for us, including countries all around the world –even in parts of the Middle East. Yes there was some rejoicing in the streets which the media picked up and magnified. But why were the people rejoicing? What had America done that might spur such a reaction? And I thought at the time, and still wonder, what if we had reacted as a truly Christian nation, called on God to help us forgive and to receive forgiveness, and had not immediately responded to violence with violence. How might the last 11 years have been different?


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