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The Greyhound

The Greyhound

September 11th must not become trivialized

Today, nearly two weeks have passed since the twelfth anniversary of September 11, 2001. Current Loyola students, from New York and elsewhere around the country, remember being in the fourth grade or younger when the tragic attacks took place on that unsuspecting Tuesday morning a dozen years ago.

The 9/11 attacks were shocking and unthinkable. They tore families apart in an instant. For some, the suffering still continues even today. Survivors from the World Trade Center in Manhattan and first responders who searched in the Ground Zero rubble for bodies afterward are still being diagnosed with 9/11-related conditions and living with permanent physical and emotional scars. My father, a battalion chief of the Fire Department of New York, died of cancer more than eleven years after the terrorist attacks (and three years after retiring) because of his work at Ground Zero—and he is certainly not alone.

These attacks ripped people apart, and they shook America to its core—but they also brought the country together. We are brought together every time we look back on that day and every time we remember the innocent men and women we lost. September 11 should be a day where we take at least one somber moment to do this.

This year though, as I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed I saw something somewhat disturbing. A friend of mine had shared a photo from Imgur, the online hosting service for images. Clicking on the link, I saw Geico’s camel (the one who is always excited about Wednesday being “hump day”) walking around an office asking people what day it was, as he does in the commercials. In the next panel, an employee responded matter-of-factly that it was 9/11, and in the third panel the camel screamed at him for being a complete buzzkill. More than a few times in my newsfeed and timeline that Wednesday, in fact, I saw friends and acquaintances making jokes about 9/11 or expressing irritation at having to remember such a sad day that happened over a decade ago.

This is not how everyone feels, of course. This year on 9/11, Loyola held a vigil in the Alumni Chapel that SGA Student Body President Brendan Fulmer said was packed from floor to ceiling. Obviously, the Loyola community cares about and remembers this day, and so do all Americans, really. However, we may be underemphasizing the attacks’ importance more with each passing year, and we are starting to make offensive jokes about it. If you don’t agree with me, just peruse the Internet for an hour, or watch any of a number of clips from Family Guy episodes. (There’s even a full episode in which Stewie and Brian have the power to travel back in time, and decide to visit that day.)

In the spring of 2012 I wrote an opinions piece about the Titanic—coinciding with the opening of the Loyola Evergreen Players’ show Titanic: The Musical—about the alarming number of young social media users who didn’t know the James Cameron movie was based on a real historical ship. After 100 years and a famous film with Leonardo DiCaprio, it seems we’ve become very distant from it and no longer see the sinking of the Titanic as a real event that affected people’s lives. I worry, now, that this is already starting to happen with 9/11, after only a tenth of the time. If we make light of a serious day such as this, we are totally losing sight of its significance.

We’ve already become somewhat numb to jokes about the Holocaust and American slavery. The other day, my good friend referred to my (incredibly, disgustingly messy) dorm room as “Nagasaki after the bomb dropped.” These tragic events from the past have shaped our present country and our world, and they have traumatized entire nations of people. We cannot ignore them for what they are, and we should not joke about them in such poor taste because of their lasting effects. I, for one, don’t like to see that—and I especially don’t want to see it start happening with 9/11.

It is important to keep in mind that 12 years is not a long time at all, and in many ways, the fire at Ground Zero still burns. It burns within grieving loved ones, people who became physically disabled from the attacks and terminally ill patients who got sick trying to help their fellow citizen. 9/11 is a day that still directly impacts our lives as Americans; it is still current and its presence is still felt, and therefore we cannot treat it so impersonally.

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September 11th must not become trivialized