I’ve done the same thing now for over a decade. When the 9/11 programs start popping up on cable, I watch every one of them, even those I’ve seen before. It’s certainly not for entertainment; in fact, I’ve been asking myself a lot this week why I still do it. After 11 years, I shouldn’t still be worrying it, like a tooth where the filling has fallen out and the nerve is sensitive. It’s not disaster porn, at least not for me.
One conclusion I’ve reached is this: Because everything had happened before I even learned of the attacks and I didn’t have anything visual to inform me until about 9:30 that night when we arrived home from our long drive, I’m still trying to register all those images. Driving along the Pennsylvania Turnpike, listening to various radio transmissions, I could not envision what was being described to me. How could those tall buildings “collapse”? What happens when a jet deliberately flies into an office tower? At that point, there was still speculation that as many as 10,000 were dead; I felt as if I’d driven into a wall myself when I heard that 300-plus firefighters and emergency personnel were believed to have died.
Last year, for the ten-year anniversary of 9/11, I wrote here and here about the tragedy, and I linked to additional details I’d written elsewhere. Yet, I don’t think I could ever stop writing about it. Not so much the me, me, me aspect of it, but the entire scope of that day. The “me” of it was being overwhelmed by the horrible things that had happened to others–and I guess that’s still the gist of it. I guess that’s why I continue to watch all those 9/11 programs, reliving the events according to the timeline, cringing in my heart as the planes hit and trying to empathize with those stricken people on the ground, staring up. I try to delve into the last moments on the jets and in the towers, trying to understand the impact of a plane slamming into a skyscraper at 500 miles per hour or pancaked floors of steel and concrete crushing the human body. I didn’t know anyone who died that day, but it doesn’t seem to matter: I think about them as if I knew them all.