Why I Don’t Condone a Remembrance Day for September 11th…

For some reason everyone kept asking me this year if I’m going to “do anything” for 9/11.  In 2002 I squeaked by without explanation with “It’s too soon”, same in 2003 although I got more fish-eyed looks for the explanation.  By the next year I had formulated a better explanation for my misgivings on a “Remembrance Day” but by then it had seem to fall out of vogue.  This year for some inexplicable reason (unless that we have a presidential candidate that wants to continue the war against terrorism ad infinitum who just nominated a Vice President who actually wants to go to war with Russia) it was on everyone’s lips last week.  Here’s why I’m against “celebrating” 9/11, even though it’s dangerous to say…even as a New Yorker that was several blocks away when the planes hit.

I’m not actually against remembering the event.  This is obviously important to remember both the heroes who died and the innocents they couldn’t save, but to do so without keeping the scope of our tragedy in perspective is very dangerous.  It creates an air of ethnocentrism that makes any attack on Americans more important than attacks that are being suffered around the world on any given day.   True, it’s not often when 3,000 lives are lost in two fell swoops that caused Ground Zero, but even our name for the effected spot should remind me of the hidden propaganda that causes us to speak in dangerous ethnocentric tones. Simply using the phrase “Ground Zero” to describe the attack site of the World Trade Center exaggerates our tragedy to the status of other much more serious global tragedies.

“Ground Zero” is a phrase coined by the Manhattan Project to describe the point of impact on the earth’s surface with a nuclear weapon, specifically in reference to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. To compare the 3,000 Americans that al-Qaeda killed at the American Ground Zero with the 70,000 Japanese that we killed at the original Hiroshima Ground Zero and the 50,000 at the Nagasaki Ground Zero, both of which attacks that we were behind within three days of each other reflects the hubris that we, as Americans, have been trained with to think that our families more important than other families in the world. To have the gall to compare the damage caused to us by two planes with the damaged we caused with two nuclear weapons is to say that our families are actually thirty-three times more important than any Japanese family.

Another way to see the absurdity of letting the World Trade Center attacks subconsciously replace Hiroshima when the phrase “Ground Zero” is heard, we can look at the sheer area of destruction that we caused compared to the amount of damaged that was inflicted on us.

On most maps, the site of the Hiroshima attacks looks much like the maps of the World Trade Center damage.

…but these maps make us lose perspective on the two events since the sense of scale is destroyed in these two maps.  Let’s fight our own ethnocentrism and look at the two ground zeros in the same perspective.  We have to zoom out a good deal to do that, but here’s a map of the actual damage at our Ground Zero that we suffered.  Of course this is actual damage and not the fall-out, residual damage, or fire damage that spread around the area:

My apartment was just on the other side of Broadway and the only damage done to my apartment was ash.  If the Al Qaeda had caused us as much damage on 9/11 as we caused at the original Ground Zero, the map would look like this…

Again, keep in mind that this is just the actual destruction, not the deadly nuclear radiation that would be carried away on the wind and poison the rivers, bay and the ocean, not the fires that would spread not just through the financial district (since this would be completely destroyed) but also Jersey City, Hoboken, and Brooklyn, and not counting the structural damage that would effect not just the half-dozen surrounding buildings but the half-dozen surrounding towns.  While I was safely in my John Street apartment on 9/11 if I had been the same distance away from the bomb we dropped I wouldn’t have even lived long enough to hear the explosion.  Everything and everyone south of Houston Street would have been destroyed.  NYU wouldn’t be a haven for survivors, Washington Square campus would have been destroyed.  The Holland Tunnel, Brooklyn Bridge, and Manhattan Bridge would not have been an escape route for New Yorkers, they would have all been destroyed.

Before I put too fine a point on it, this isn’t to say that I’m against a Remembrance Day.  All I’m advocating for is too keep a sense of perspective about it.  We would be remiss as world citizens if we did not keep it in perspective, and even more so if we taught such ethnocentrism to our students.  I’m overjoyed that many New York schools observed a minute of silence to remember the attacks, but to teach a sense of perspective about the terror we should also observe a full 3 minutes of silence on June 6th to remember D-Day.  We should observe roughly 15 minutes of silence on June 18th to remember the lives lost in the battle of Waterloo.  And on August sixth we must observe 47 minutes of silence on to remember Hiroshima.  Are any of these events less important than the World Trade Center attacks?  Can we claim to have suffered more than Iraq has in the last seven years?  Can we claim New York is now a more pitiful city to live in than Darfur?  Can we say that we are attacked more unjustly than Georgia?  We cannot and because of this we must acknowledge that the attacks on September 11th have made us a part of the global family and not separated from it.

P.S. On a lighter note: This week’s award for the unusual blog stat goes to whomever searched the internet for “mädel aus krain” and found my site. Anyone speak German out there and no what he was interested in?

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16 Responses to Why I Don’t Condone a Remembrance Day for September 11th…

  1. D Google says:

    Why, because you’re an idiot.

    • Jason Tyne says:

      Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and comment. Can you elaborate on your thoughts please? I am trying to take the long view on global tragedies and international perspectives, so I’m very interested in what I’m missing about it that makes me an idiot. Thanks.

  2. PZ says:

    If you ever have the chance to visit Hiroshima and ground zero. . . it changes your perspective about a lot of things. It was one of the biggest pivotal points in my life. Not to demean the destruction and evil of 9/11, but the horrors and atrocities suffered there are forever etched in my mind.

  3. God knows says:

    WT 9/11 is no ground zero. In Horoshima died over 200.000 people at WT 9/11 only close 4.000 and God knows the resaon and the intention of each person is involved in those both terrible history parts.

    • Jason Tyne says:

      I totally agree…those numbers alone should make Americans notice the difference between the damage we inflict on other countries and the amount of damage that is inflicted on us…but I was absolutely astounded when I put the area of physical damage on a map. We forget that we are responsible for far, far worse damage in the world than what happened in 9/11.

      As a New Yorker a mere blocks away from the World Trade Center that day, I am deeply aware of the immense tragedy that happened that day…but I’m also aware that it’s a drop in the bucket on the scale of global tragedy.

  4. David OC says:

    With this new “controversy” about the “Ground Zero” Mosque, I was, like you, upset that the term “Ground Zero” was hijacked by our propaganda spinners. Googled it and found your site. Well done. If every country we dropped bombs on the last 50 years came back with retribution, there would be no New York City left.

  5. Semantikos says:

    You have a narrow minded view of a tragedy based on semantics.

    • Jason Tyne says:

      Thanks for your comment, but I think I’m confused by it. It sounds like you’re saying that since I’m taking a global perspective on tragedy instead of an American view, that this is making me narrow minded. Wouldn’t an international view necessarily be broader than an ethnocentric view?

      • Adam says:

        I agree with Semantikos; nothing Semantikos said is ethnocentric. It seems like you spend a lot of time trying to pat yourself on the back for your new global view. Simply because ground zero is used to reference a location in two otherwise unrelated events does not make the actions at those sites necessarily interchangeable.
        Comparing events in two different states does not afford the onlooker a new perspective based on their ability to look internationally, it usually clouds their judgment because they fail to take into account other compromising factors surrounding the event. For instance – in 1944, a time when bombing cities was martially acceptable, the United States was at war with the Japanese Empire; in 2001, the United States was not in large scale armed conflict by any means.
        By ignoring all those two broad statements, you demonstrate a narrow minded view.

      • Jason Tyne says:

        Adam,

        Thanks for your comment. I agree with many of your points. Especially “Simply because ground zero is used to reference a location in two otherwise unrelated events does not make the actions at those sites necessarily interchangeable.” That’s exactly my point. The two Ground Zeroes are not interchangeable, but they are comparable. Part of what I think we need to do is fully understand the implications of Hiroshima and Nagasaki before calling the site of an unrelated event “Ground Zero”. You bring up several factors that we, as both Americans and world citizens, should reflect upon such as how people viewed the bombing of cities in 1944 on a country-by-country basis. This is exactly the type of world view that I am encouraging.

        What I don’t agree with is your statement “Comparing events in two different states does not afford the onlooker a new perspective based on their ability to look internationally, it usually clouds their judgment because they fail to take into account other compromising factors surrounding the event.”

        Basically what you’re saying is that comparing events in two different states is difficult so we just shouldn’t bother doing it. I think that we should absolutely take the time to compare events in two different states…with the caveat that we must absolutely take into account the multitude of factors surrounding the event. You’re wise to point it out, but that’s not a reason to crawl into ignorance. We should be exploring events in other countries AND the historical and social factors that influence them.

        You are correct that I did ignore those specific broad statements in my original post, but so does anyone that never stops to consider the scientific meaning of “ground zero” and the historical significance. Perhaps this does make me narrow minded, but not as narrow minded as those that don’t make these comparisons at all.

  6. Michael says:

    I have no respect for sentiments. Without this bomb all I can imagine is a world where Japanese men, women and children and Americans Marines line up by the hundreds of thousands for meaningless incineration. The 9/11 attacks were meaningless death. If I had the power, I would let you and hundred of thousands of your kind march into the incinerator in place of those that would bravely had died in the invasion of Japan. At least this way war would be neat and clean. If you are not volunteering to die in their place. Please, don’t talk as thought you care.

    Star Trek: A taste of Armageddon

    • Jason Tyne says:

      Thank you for your comment, although I feel you’re reading a great deal into my statements which are not there.

      You seem to be responding to my post as if I had said “The world would have been better if we had not dropped the bomb.” or “I regret dropping the bomb.” None of us can accurately predict what the world would be like had we not dropped the bomb; we can only speculate. The folks involved with dropping the bomb did what they thought needed to be done at the moment, and I respect that.

      When did I ever imply that I resented dropping the bomb? I hope that you find that I didn’t.

  7. Leonid says:

    Very good write up. I agree that 9/11 was a horrible event that should not be forgotten. But there are plenty of issues in our world that need our attention. We need to constantly challenge ourselves and our leaders. Nothing can be taken at face value as there are always other factors and forces at play.

    Btw maedel aus krain means girl from krain. Not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing 😉

  8. Coleus says:

    To go on your premise that a remembrance should be in proportion to the number of lives lost, then how long should the moment of silence be every year on January 22?

    • Jason Tyne says:

      I hope you realize that this was not actually a call for this practice to put into place similar to “A Modest Proposal”, but to illuminate a sense of perspective. But if you are looking for a straightforward answer, even though this seems to be more of a math question or a trivia question than a philosophical question, I’ll do my best to answer. If we are talking about tragedies that are clearly attacks (such as 9/11 and Hiroshima) and not tragedies that are accidents (such as plane and boat crashes) I would have to say that if we observe 47 minutes of silence each year to remember Hiroshima and 1 minute of silence each year to remember, then we would observe 2 seconds of silence for the 2007 car bombs explode in the Bab Al-Sharqi market in Baghdad. Of course it isn’t really the length of time we spend remembering, just that we remember these events at all. So I thank you for bringing this event to my memory. Of which January 22 tragedy were you thinking?

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