Thingish Things

The Dreaded 10th Anniversary

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Jul• 21•11

My father used to talk to my older brother and me about the War when were little kids. It was the mid-to-late 1960’s and World War II was fairly recent history. Germany and Japan had surrendered just over 20 years prior to that, the rough equivalent today of the end of the First Gulf War.

My father told us stories — some of them hair-raising — about what it was like to kill and see your friends killed, and what it was like to be wounded by German mortar shrapnel (twice) and have it removed with the help of morphine and pretty Italian nurses. He told us of listening to German soldiers sing in their foxholes on a cold winter night, and how they ambushed them all the next morning.  He told us stories we will neither forget nor pass on.  

And then, like so many others, my father abruptly stopped talking about the War.  We were always in the market for more stories, and ever-excitable yours-truly had question after question after unanswered question. I still do. 

I always thought my father ceased recalling the War because he was haunted by memories of it. I’m sure that’s partially true. But it never occurred to me, until some years after 9/11, that maybe, just maybe,  he and millions of other Americans were just collectively sick to death of talking about it. And so they stopped. 

That’s what I think now.

The ten-year anniversary of 9/11 will soon be upon us, and PR types like me are busy preparing real and dubious 9/11 angles to everything ranging from memorials to laundry soap for possible media mention. But I can’t help thinking in the back of my head that not a single American wants to hear one more damned thing about 9/11. Those lost will be remembered, of course, but the rest of the story has been told to death, beaten into pulp into the ground over a period of years.  The story no one could get enough of became excruciating to listen to. It’s why the bin Laden killing turned out to be only a three-day story. 

That shift in attitude happened abruptly, too. I was particularly attune to it because I worked with several 9/11 groups and national security organizations in the years following the attacks. For the longest time, the mere mention of terrorism would bring reporters running and civilian eyes front-and-center.  And then, in my observation anyway, the interest simply shut off one day. Anyone peddling national security stories — legitimate ones — got a door in the face.  The long news cycle was over.

I remember exactly when it happened. It was in early 2007, just after the tide in Iraq began to turn back in our favor. When it was clear the Surge was working. From that point on, the economy became the issue and mentions of 9/11 or terrorism were met with rolled eyes or outright scorn.  

Today we learn that al Qaeda may have infiltrated our nuclear power plants, and still I don’t want to hear about it. Terrorism and 9/11 fatigue got to me, too. Just tell me if something blows up, I half-think. I’ll pay attention then.  I don’t mean to sound dispassionate, but, in truth, I am.  I got burned out on the story years ago. 

I don’t know if I can bear the 10th Anniversary news cycle in America.  Can’t we wait ’til the 25th? 

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