I wrote on September 12, 2001

There’s nothing for us to say about the events. You’ve seen it on TV, and you realize how people are reacting. If the professional wordsmiths and mouthpieces can’t find the words, neither will we. There are no precedents to help comprehend the events, nor words to summarize the grief and shock. It doesn’t seem real now. Perhaps it never will.

As any history professor will tell you, people don’t much care for the minutiae of dates. Yesterday morning, most Americans could identify only three by heart.

Now there will be four.

July 4, 1776

December 7, 1941

November 22, 1963

September 11, 2001

14 thoughts on “20 Years Ago

  1. Just curious if anyone knows or remembers – did Dec. 7, 1961 feature anything like this amount of solemnity and flag-humping?

    1. I would say much more.

      In 2001, the media walked gently around the Muslim angle, and the government played down the Saudi connection. That offered a certain counter-balance to the everyday American’s thirst for revenge. That was not so in 1941. The vituperation against all things Japanese was white-hot. The people were enraged and there was no counter balance. Both the government and the media inflamed the situation rather than trying to defuse it. The newspapers referred to the enemy as “Japs.” The government herded Japanese Americans into internment camps. You’ve seen the racist Japanese caricatures in the old Warner Brothers cartoons. You’ve seen the flag-waving in the movies made during the war.

      The congress almost unanimously declared war (82-0 and 388-1). There were no more Democrats and Republicans on this matter. There were only Americans. My mom and dad were always nostalgic for WW2 because (in their view) it was a time when there was one America with a common set of enemies, and everyone was part of the team.

      Of course, they didn’t know any Japanese-Americans.

      Here’s a sample newspaper from December 8th:

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      1. I thought he was asking about the marking of 20th anniversary of Pearl Harbor in comparison to yesterday’s saturation. I don’t think it was anything close

        1. I misunderstood. I guess I misread the date.

          Same answer, though. The AP story was front page, top headline news.

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          1. I’m sure most newspapers had similar issues. I wonder if any footage survives from the 3 major networks at the time, or if everything was dumped in the bay like the forgotten DuMont network. I would suspect that they probably devoted an hour or two in prime time at most. This predates Cronkite’s anchor days. There doesn’t seem to be a national broadcasting museum.

          1. Thank you. Partly I am lazy but also my default is still “ask someone” before “Google it”.

      2. During WWII Americans were encouraged to hate the enemy. While “Jap” is considered a derogatory name today, it was probably the least offensive term used for Japanese during the war. It was acceptable to use Asian slurs to refer to the enemy during the Korean and Vietnam wars as well. But nearly everyone involved with the government from President Bush on down tried their best to discourage the American people from broadening our conflict with certain Middle Eastern Muslims into hatred of all Middle Easterners and/or Muslims. It was a lost cause with some Americans. But ethnic slurs were still unwelcome in polite society in a way that wasn’t true during WWII. Well that was true at least in the polite societies I was a part of.

        My mother experienced ethnic slurs when she was a child. She was born in 1940 with the maiden name Schmidt. Her father walked out on my grandmother when my mom was 4. She never saw him again, but he left her behind to hear people to say hateful things to her. Fortunately, she never faced being sent to an internment camp. But anyone or at least any adult that would harass a child because of her heritage deserves a special place in hell in my opinion. I mean it’s wrong to attack anyone because of ethnicity, just more wrong to attack a child. I grew up with lots of stories about Leprechauns but without any exposure to German culture. Alas, I was so close to being a Hall of Fame Third Basemen. If I had the name, the talent would have come with it, right?

  2. It was interesting thinking about vaccine mandates on September 11 and I realized the similarities.

    Al Qaeda did their own independent research for September 11 and come to the conclusion that it was their plane, their choice.

  3. Millennials know smart phones, tattoos, and shallow popular music. They know nothing else. I met someone the other day who thought “maybe she’d heard of” Sinatra but she wasn’t sure. Case closed.

    1. Yep. It’s just like how my generation knew only TV, long hair, and shallow popular music. I met someone once who thought she’d heard of Bing Crosby, but she wasn’t sure. Case closed.

      If you were trying to be funny, I apologize. But, really, don’t you know that the irritation with the young that you are expressing is typical of every generation since the Industrial Revolution really got rolling? Are you, yourself, ignorant of the complaints about the Baby Boomers in that respect by the older generations (back when there WERE older generations)?

      Heck, weren’t there complaints about whatever generation YOU are a member of, or do you date back to the Civil War?

  4. People who lived through the JFK assassination and its aftermath will never forget it. But I don’t think most younger people have the date memorized. I was born in 1968 and while I could have told you JFK was killed in November of 1963, I couldn’t have given you the day of the month without looking it up. I used to teach history in high school and I am not sure the majority of my students could identify the decade that he was killed. July 4 is a national holiday during which the July 4, 1776 date is prominently displayed/discussed. Most people remember the December 7, 1941 date in large part because of how often the line from FDR’s “date that will live in infamy” speech is replayed. (Although, a vice-president may occasionally think the attack occurred on September 7.) I had a history professor in college that told me he once announced to a class that they wouldn’t have time to get all the way through WWII before the end of the semester. He told me one student came up to him after class and asked him “who won?” I once asked an extra credit question on a test “What color was George Washington’s white horse?” and more than a third of my students got it wrong. So I am sure there will be history teachers that will be asked “what was the date of the 9/11 attacks?” But I think the only real question is whether in 30 or 40 years most people will remember the year as well as the day and month. Considering 2001 was the first year of the 21st Century, I think most people will remember it.

    1. Most people think 2000 was the first year of the 21st century. You have to think to know that 2000 was the end of the 20th century and know there was no year 0.

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