It’s Ten Years Later, but No Reminders Necessary

I’m really not a fan of anniversary stories.

I remember learning in a journalism class that anniversary stories can be crutches, a convenient construct for reporters to fall back on when they feel like they need to say something about a landmark event, but they’re not sure what or how.

This was a big deal at Syracuse, which lost 35 students on December 21, 1988, when Pam Am 103 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland. For years, every December would bring the anniversary stories about the SU campus during that terrible week. It was a tough tension: The school, and parents, wanted those 35 students remembered, but no one wanted to rehash the grief of those days over and over again each year.

I learned the anniversary story lesson the hard way, as the 10th anniversary of Pan Am 103 approached. As a reporter for the Daily Orange, Syracuse’s student-run newspaper, I called an SU grad who’d been editor-in-chief of the D.O.–and roommates with one of the Pan Am 103 victims. She consented to an interview, but only after telling me that she thought the story concept was a lazy one, and she was right.

I’ve been thinking about that lesson a lot lately, as the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approaches. I get queasy seeing the commercials for TV specials and new documentaries recounting the day.

It’s not that I don’t want to remember, or that I don’t think people should look back and reflect. But I don’t need the anniversary stories to remember that day.

The memories are all too clear. All I have to do is think of my boss running down the hall of our office, pointing to the armed troops surrounding the park outside my downtown D.C. office building, and I’m transported back to that sunny Tuesday morning, and the days after, when National Guard humvees sat on every downtown street corner.

I don’t need to watch the full day of network coverage again. I did that the first time, while sitting in Anya’s apartment because I couldn’t get across the river to get home. Once I finally made it back to Virginia, I kept watching, sitting in the Carlyle bar with Steph because we couldn’t think of anywhere else to go and we didn’t want to be alone.

It will be tough to avoid the stories over the next week. I’ll probably end up watching or reading some.

I just don’t need them to help me remember.


UPDATE: As I continued to give this post more thought, I realized that one of the reasons I’ve been feeling so uneasy about all of this 9/11 coverage is the idea that it seems exploitative — the idea that media outlets will be cashing in, as they replay those phone calls from the World Trade Center. So I was really glad to see this story in the New York Times yesterday.


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