Saturday, September 11, 2004

Today is Mencken Day at work. If you don't know who H.L. Mencken is, don't worry, you're not alone. I didn't know who he was either until I started working here. He was a prolific newspaper man from the early to mid-1900s. He wrote about the Scopes Monkey trial. (The Gene Kelly character from Inherit the Wind is based on him, if you've seen that movie. ) He also wrote books on English language and was an all-around curmudgeonly, cigar-chomping, beer-drinking old man.

And today is also the third anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Honestly, I'm going to say that I don't feel a lot grief for the attacks this year. It seems like such a long time ago that they happened. I know they did change things in America, and I cannot believe that George W. Bush is using what happened then for his re-election. But that's a rant for another time.

I've never actually written about my 9/11 story, so I thought today would be a good day to write it all down, being the anniversary.

September 11, 2001 was a Tuesday and fell during the second week of classes of the Fall semester of my senior year at UWEC. I only had one class on Tuesdays, The European Novel with Duffy, which was at night. I hadn't finished reading The Princesse de Clèves, the novel due that evening, but I knew that I had the whole day to read it and write my response to our class list-serv. So I started reading the book, watched an episode of Hey Arnold! and then I turned on the Today Show and saw the World Trade Center on fire. I couldn't believe my eyes. I thought for sure that it was a joke, but when I went out into our living room and talked with my roommates. I kept watching the Today show -- everyone else had classes, so I was all by myself for most of the morning. I remember getting so nervous while watching TV that I had to do something else, so I ended up rewrapping our burner covers with aluminum foil. Watching the coverage on TV was horrifying, but I couldn't turn it off.

My class Tuesday night didn't get canceled, and in a way it was helpful to have something other than the relentless coverage of the attacks to focus on. The professor was actually from New York, and probably knew people who had been in the building or at least New York at the time. I honestly don't remember anything about The Princesse de Clèves, and I've never gone back to reread it and see if it brings back memories of September 11.

I find it interesting that as September 11 was happening people -- well, media people -- kept saying that this was going to cause a big change in the way people lived. The age of irony was going to be over, and people would begin to act differently. And we did, but it didn't last. America has gone back to consuming and acting ironically. September 11 just can't last. I don't know that anyone can live their lives in the same kind of tone that we did after September 11.

I've actually been to the World Trade Center since moving to Baltimore, and it definitely didn't have the same kind of mournful feeling that watching television did. Things are moving on in New York, and Ground Zero doesn't look like Ground Zero any more. It's more of a construction zone.

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