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rhetorical and linguistic norms
rhetorical and linguistic norms
How do we commemorate 9/11?
Let me count the ways.
On Sunday, the fifteenth anniversary of the horrific 9/11 attacks in the US, I kept a record of all the ways I noticed that people were commemorating the events. From my morning newspapers to social media and other blogs to nighttime television news and specials, I watched for how people were being mindful of the day.
It did not make for a happy day. But it did get me thinking about the different ways (genres, if you like) we can achieve the same purpose. The many different ways we commemorate.
Commemoration might make you think of public ceremonies. And those did happen, as I learned from the three newspapers I read, both nationally and locally.
The National September 11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center 9/11 Memorial streamed a commemoration ceremony live. (You may have heard more about Hillary Clinton's supposed "collapse" on leaving that ceremony than the commemoration itself.) And the Memorial displayed the Tribute in Light
Closer to home, the University of Kansas announced a 9/11 commemoration at 8 pm with a flag presentation, words from the local fire chief, candle lighting, and tolling of campanile bells
In Kansas City, beginning at 8:56 am and each wearing a picture of a rescuer who died in the attempt to save others’ lives, a commemorative stair climb.
"343 firefighters climbed 110 fights of stairs to remember the victims of 9/11 from the New York Fire Department.”
Another kind of commemoration was held during the pregame show at the Kansas City Chiefs football game. During the playing of the national anthem before the Kansas City Chiefs football game, 150 first responders held an American flag across the field
And President Barack Obama gave an address, as he did for Labor Day, this time at the Pentagon Memorial.
Some editorial writers also commemorated the day, using the event for more pointed arguments. The Kansas City Star's Sunday editorial argued for shifting tactics against terrorism. And Michael Gerson (Washington Post Writers Group, printed in KC Star) on “What did 9/11 mean?”
Editorial cartoonists used single images for great impact. I couldn't find a legal link to the one I found most powerful (and used in both my local newspapers) by Tom Stiglich--an image of the World Trade Center towers superimposed on an American flag with the words "NEVER FORGET." But such editorial cartoons were common September 11, with a few linked below
In an intriguing transformation of a genre, several comic strips this Sunday morning commemorated 9/11, looking more like editorial cartoons than what I grew up calling “the funnies.”
The cartoonists of BC, The Wizard of Id and Luann offered tributes to the first responders
While Mallard Fillmore and Prickly City depicted the tower and the slogan "Never Forget"
#Never Forget of course is a common hashtag I saw September 11 (though I do typically search some topics on Twitter so it might not have come up if I hadn't been browsing). #NeverForget tweets offered heartfelt sorrows and prayers, images of American flags and of the Tribute in Light, and variations on the photo gallery of the lives lost that day
On my Facebook feed, the top stories included no commemorations of 9/11 or its 15th anniversary. Breaking my rule not to go looking for it, I searched Facebook for #NeverForget and, while I found many thousands using that hashtag, it clearly was not a big topic on others' news feeds either. Of course, in 2001, 9/11 posts covered Facebook. Maybe Facebook is less the place for commemorating public events and more for connecting personally to the current moment.
Other types of commemorations I noticed that day:
The New York Times reviewed two young adult novels about 9/11, so some new fiction is remembering, if not necessarily commemorating. But the NY Times' pointing out books appropriate to the occasion commemorates it.
The New Yorker tweeted its past magazine covers commemorating 9/11
And then there was television. Well, no, actually, there wasn't. I saw that one PBS show commemorated 9/11, "Inside the Pentagon." If there were other TV documentaries or tribute concerts, they weren't heavily enough advertised or I didn’t run across them.
There was one notable TV commemoration of 9/11-- President Obama’s brief address to the nation before the NFL games
Of course, these are just the ways of commemorating I happened to encounter on September 11, 2016, a Sunday, in the middle of the country far from New York City, the Pentagon, or Shanksville, Pennsylvania. And I looked only for the public ways people paid tribute. My account doesn’t include all the many ways those who lost loved ones that day grieve, or the actions of survivors suffering from PTSD, or the private acts that might comfort as well as remind us.
But I kept thinking that day not about the ceremonies, speeches, flag displays, editorials, cartoons, tweets, magazine covers, or even the stair climbs. In the end, I was most moved by a single photograph from the morning newspaper that represented many. An image of the back of a young woman's neck, where you can see the tattoo she got to honor her mother, who was killed in the World Trade Center attacks. Hers and the many other tattoos like hers may be the most powerful act of commemorating. Reminding us in their public commemoration of their private grief.
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