Marking The Day Everything Changed By Changing Exactly Nothing (And You Thought Irony Was Dead)

I find it hard to believe that anyone was "infuriated" by local CBS and Fox affiliates cutting away from WTC 9/11 Memorial coverage yesterday. Sure enough, the Post doesn't actually interview anyone who supposedly felt this way:

CBS and Fox infuriated viewers yesterday by cutting away to the opening Sunday NFL match-ups — in the middle of the 9/11 memorial coverage.

The networks switched from the reading of the victims' names at Ground Zero at around 1 p.m. to go to any one of eight games — none featuring New York teams — around the country.

The remainder of the 9/11 services could still be seen on about a dozen other channels.

Coming after five-plus hours of reading name after name, can you blame someone for wanting to watch the Steelers-Ravens game? It was a big one. Even that Eagles game looked better than T through Z. What's more, it didn't look like anyone at the site itself was actually paying attention the entire time, so why expect that level of interest from someone watching from home?

Which is exactly the problem with running that memorial as they have year after year since 2002: Something fundamentally fails as a memorial when you lose people's attention like that. (Something I can't confirm: 2002's name recitation didn't seem like it went on for five hours, though I can't find out for sure.)

If the memorial ceremony was strictly for the families — and obviously that's fair, families should be able to grieve — then it shouldn't have been on TV. But in that case they should have had some sort of memorial for everyone else that wasn't so easily ignored.

In 2002, when the names were read for the first time, the effect was stupefying. The slow steady recitation hammered home the point that so many individuals died in the attacks, like an aural version of the Vietnam Memorial. In the years since, that magic was never repeated. By yesterday it just sounded fatiguing. 2002 was both high concept and poignant. 2011 just sounded like a really morbid graduation ceremony — and like a graduation ceremony, it seemed that many of those in the first part of the alphabet had long since left. I feel bad for the families of those with names beginning with W, X, Y or Z — those five hours must have been excruciating to sit or stand through.

There's something stubborn and self-aggrandizing about running the same program year after year, like whoever was in charge of it doesn't think they need to make it meaningful. But the truth about horrible events — the horrible truth about horrible events — is that they always fade from our consciousness; Gettysburg and Pearl Harbor were equally horrible and today people struggle to mark the event in a meaningful way, never mind things like the General Slocum disaster or the 1920 bombing at Wall Street. September 11 will also fade; the people in charge need to change it up or this will happen even quicker (in fact, it's already happening some surprising places). They can't fall back on some conceptual idea that ran its course nine years earlier.

Speaking of self-aggrandizing, if I'm reading this Daily News article correctly, Paul Simon switched out the hopeful "Bridge Over Troubled Water" for the mopey, post-adolescent angsty "The Sounds of Silence." The whole day seemed so tightly controlled and cautiously conservative that I can't believe it would have been OK to call an audible. Dick move. Banning clergy but allowing Paul Simon to play god — interesting choice.

People tell me this is the last time they'll read names on the anniversary of the attacks. Let's hope so.

Posted: September 12th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: For Reals No For Serious | Tags: , , , ,

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