Breaking the Date | Vox Pop | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Breaking the Date

Tragedies take place every day

So I'm sitting in PNC Park a couple of Sundays ago and right before we sing "Take Me Out To the Ball Game" the PA announcer says some guy's going to sing "God Bless America." Fine. But the other stuff he says annoys me. It's something like, "Please join us in honoring the victims of the September 11th tragedy by listening to Joe Blow sing 'God Bless America.'"


Now, I know I'm treading into dangerous territory. After all, there are no more important dead people than the ones who died on 9/11. Those deaths are apparently more significant, more tragic, more heartbreaking than all others.


But all I could think of is, haven't we had quite a few other equally sad, equally tragic deaths since then? How about all our boys and girls who've died in Afghanistan and Iraq? How about those innocent civilians we killed in Afghanistan and Iraq? Sure, you could claim the civilians are "collateral damage," the government's favorite dehumanizing phrase. You could say innocents always die in war and we had to attack the Taliban, and the fanatics running the government thought we had to attack Iraq, and so on. But isn't it still really tragic that both our soldiers and their civilians died?


What about my father? He died a couple of months after 9/11. I may be more freaked about 9/11, but I look at pictures of my Dad around the house, say on Father's Day, and get misty-eyed. I don't have any pictures of the World Trade Center lying around to bum me out. Should I?


OK, I'm just going to say it: I'm sick of 9/11 being the center of the universe. It was a horrific, scary, awful day and my heart goes out to the victims and their families. It's permanently seared into our national consciousness. But Americans can't center their lives around this event forever.


I actually uttered this notion out loud while filling in for Lynn Cullen on WPTT radio recently. I got one supportive call, a woman who said, "What about the Oklahoma City bombing victims? They don't count because it was a home-grown terrorist?" Good point, I thought. But most of those who phoned in thought I was heartless and cruel. That may be true, but it doesn't change my point.


One gentleman said, "Look, your father died and that's too bad, but our country was attacked on September 11th, and that's the difference." Well, my father fought for our country after we were attacked during World War II. So there.


Somebody else called in to ask if I had the nerve to compare the deaths of those who died in 9/11 to every poor shmo who died in a traffic accident or of natural causes since then. Well, I said, I hadn't really thought about it. But if I had just been made a single mother because my husband died in a traffic accident and I didn't know how I would pay the bills, yes, I suspect I would think that was the more significant death.


I am still called upon occasionally to do short debates on CNN.  I'm the stereotypical liberal, and they find a shouting conservative from central casting. They found some loudmouth from Jersey a few weeks ago, and we were arguing about whether torture is a good thing. Naturally, he thought it was. But he tried to pull rank by saying, "Hey, I'm just a few blocks from the World Trade Center."


I suppose I could have countered by saying, "Oh yeah, well, I'm only an hour or so from the heroic guys who saved the U.S. Capitol building and half the Congress when they forced an airplane to crash in a rural area, so nanna nanna boo boo." But I didn't.


Have you noticed that the World Trade Center deaths are thought to be slightly more important than either the Pentagon or the Pennsylvania deaths?


I don't mean any disrespect, really. But couldn't we just sing the damn song and let everyone think their own thoughts about it?

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