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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Remember to be thoughtful, kind even on ordinary days

    Witnessing other people’s grief is a self-indulgence. This weekend, the nation reflected on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. We remembered. We mourned. We honored. Thousands of people died on Sept. 11, 2001, and 10 years later, we’re still bursting with feelings about it.

    For weeks leading up to the anniversary, media outlets like NPR and the Los Angeles Times collected memories of that day. Many of them began with, “I was watching TV.” If your story begins with, “I was watching TV,” maybe you should re-evaluate your story. Even our memories of other people’s horror begin with our own navel-gazing.

    On Sept. 11, 2001, at around 11:45 p.m., a Polish immigrant named Henry Siwiak in New York City was killed while walking to work. A decade later, the case remains the city’s lone unsolved homicide of that day. On the same day, hundreds of thousands of other people died all over the globe. Not in an airplane or a skyscraper but of violence or hunger or exposure, not on TV but quietly and mourned by only a few people in the world.

    It is not enough to say you are sorry that thousands of strangers died. Tens of thousands of strangers die all the time. Their deaths and the lamentations of the people who loved them aren’t captured on TV.

    Tragedy, the televised kind on the scale and scope of 9/11, is romanticized. Seeing the towers fall on TV made the tragedy ours, it belonged to us. But it didn’t really. During it, we became inflated with a sense of self-importance that we mistook for kindness.

    Now, 10 years later, we remember this day when most of us were watching TV. It’s as narcissistic now as it was then. Maybe now it’s even worse, because we should know better. We tell ourselves what we feel is empathy because it came out of this incredible time of mass grief, despair, bravery and resilience. But really, we’re just grossly fascinated by grief.

    Some beauty came out of 9/11. After the attacks, an estimated 36,000 units of blood were donated to the New York Blood Center. Funds dedicated to families of members of the New York City police and fire departments collected an estimated $500 million. In Tucson, tens of thousands of people turned out to create a human flag.

    No amount of talking about how you feel about one day when nearly 3,000 Americans died will change the point: People die every day. Those deaths belong to other people, and we don’t always think of those deaths as tragedies. But compassion happens every day, not just on the anniversary of one morning when you turned on the news.

    The legacy of 9/11 is one of heartbreak and hope. In the decade that’s followed, the overwrought monologues, all the falsified words masquerading as caring, have distracted us from the simplest fact. Yesterday, 10 years ago, thousands of people died, innocently on an ordinary day. Thousands more came together and acted.

    It is not that the 10th anniversary of 9/11 shouldn’t have been commemorated. Every life lost or changed that day mattered. But now that the anniversary is over, what are you doing today?

    Today is Sept. 12. It is another ordinary day, when thousands of other innocent people will die, and their deaths won’t be televised or mourned en masse. But their deaths still matter, and the lesson still applies: Compassion is worth having on the most ordinary days.

    — Kristina Bui is the copy chief for the Daily Wildcat. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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