Mawkish media drives a frenzy of memorials

AWAY FROM the main set-piece ceremonies, away from ground zero and the Pentagon and that lonely field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, just about every community across America is organising its own commemoration of the 11 September attacks.

Whether it is in small-town ceremonies, or in schools or churches, or in moments of silence snatched in offices and on shopfloors, almost everyone in America will be marking tomorrow with some acknowledgement to the victims of the country's worst peacetime atrocity.

Many events will be carefully thought out and genuinely heartfelt, despite the overwhelmingly bombastic, mawkish, self-serving tone of the 24-hour rolling media machine. Marking the anniversary on such a scale is extraordinary, and almost impossible to explain without the impetus from the television networks. Nothing remotely on this scale took place on 7 December 1942, first anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

"Is it all overkill? Of course it is," the television critic of The San Francisco Chronicle, Tim Goodman, wrote yesterday, arguing the case for the singular influence of the small screen on the way the country has responded to the atrocities, one year on.

The driving lead being taken by the networks has left many local organisers disoriented. Many people have sounded uncertain, half-wondering why the anniversary should have taken on quite the proportions it has.

At one elementary school in the Los Angeles area, for example, the parent-teacher association is organising an evening memorial event it hopes will be "brief and moving". The organisers are still not sure what form it will take, or if parents will turn up.

There will be no lack of eye-catching initiatives. Dozens of cities will participate in the "rolling requiem", a worldwide effort to perform Mozart's Requiem and observe a minute's silence in each of the 25 time zones, in each case at 8.46am local time, the moment the first hijacked plane hit the World Trade Centre.

In Freeport, Maine, two women who have stood on Main Street waving the American flag every Tuesday morning since last September hope to be joined by hundreds of fellow townsfolk. In Seattle, the museum of flying will arrange 1,400 volunteers into a "human flag" that will wave silently in homage to the dead. In New York, an Oklahoma man will arrive at ground zero on a horse.

On a smaller scale, children will be invited to dress in red, white and blue for the day. Many people who hung flags on their houses or their cars a year ago will be doing the same tomorrow. Some people have talked of dipping their headlights at 8.46am. But these events will in some measure also be media moments, attempts to capture public attention as much as they are an expression of private sorrows.

Even where the atrocities of last year hit close to home, the compulsion to transform personal bereavement into a media event has been stunning. Lisa Beamer, the attractive blond widow of a passenger who died when United Airlines flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania, has been praised over and over for her courage and her selflessness in setting up a foundation in her late husband's name to help children recover from bad accidents.

But her husband Todd's celebrated call to action, "Let's Roll!", has also become a slogan merchandised on T-shirts and baseball caps. She has a book to sell and does the rounds of the national talk shows. Her website, beamerfoundation.org, is plugging the compilation pop album Let's Roll: Together In Unity, Faith And Hope produced in Nash-ville, home of country music.

Many Americans have expressed a weariness, even disgust, with the media-driven obsession with the anniversary. That does not mean they will not participate in the commemorations, but it does mean they will retain a certain scepticism towards them.

As Frank Megna, a Los Angeles theatre producer, put it this week: "The 9/11 victims think they are getting closer to the truth by baring it all, but what we are seeing is a distortion of what they are actually experiencing. It's really more like a farce."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
The two faces revealed by the ultraviolet light
newsScholars left shaken after shining ultraviolet light on 500-year-old Welsh manuscript
News
Rosamund Pike played Bond girld Miranda Frost, who died in Die Another Day (PA)
news
Arts and Entertainment
books
News
newsHow do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? With people like this
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat