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Offended by those who exploit 9/11

THE SECOND anniversary of Sept. 11 approaches, and the weatherman promises East Coast residents that the day will be as blue, as mild and as sunny as that first Sept. 11.

Americans, except for those who lost loved ones that day, have returned to normal - or "the new normal," as some have called it. But it will be a long time - a generation perhaps - before a perfect fall day does not send an echo of fear through us, and leave us with a vague feeling of loss.

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9/11 is part of who we are now. The terrorists did more than get our attention that day. They destroyed the American daydream - of invincibility, of security, of righteousness, of innocence, of an unending string of tomorrows stretching out to the horizon.

Most Americans returned to the routines of daily life long ago. But if there was any doubt that 9/11 haunts that normalcy, the New York City blackout removed it. We watched with familiar dread as that city dealt again with a massive calamity.

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9/11 did not leave me afraid. Of subways or airline travel. Of malls or drinking water. Of Disney World or Super Bowls. I am not looking over my shoulder at dark-complexioned men.

But some of my thresholds have shifted, and I find myself offended by the 9/11 anniversary industry.

Books such as Gail Sheehy's Middletown, America, which attempts to shoehorn the misery of that one New Jersey community, which lost more souls than anyplace but New York City proper, into her Passages franchise.

Movies such as Showtime's DC 9/11: Time of Crisis, a shameless campaign commercial for President George W. Bush, complete with real footage of the actual buildings collapsing and real people dying.

I moaned softly to myself when I heard that The New York Times had gone to court to force the release of the emergency calls that terrible morning. What would the survivors be forced to hear or read for the sake of the public's right to know?

I was speechless as I listened to a reporter describe his tireless efforts to identify the victim falling like a spear from the World Trade Center, whose image was captured in a series of horrific pictures that were almost immediately withdrawn from publication.

I flinched when I read of the media bidding war that has begun for mysteriously discovered video of each plane hitting the towers.

And I shut my eyes for a long moment against the news that Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Rick Bragg, who has made such a profitable franchise out of his poor white roots, had signed on to write Jessica Lynch's million-dollar story.

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His backwoods Southern style, polished for years in the pages of The Times, must have flowed like molasses over Jessica and her family.

Now the families of all the soldiers who have died in Iraq will have added to their grief a book tour by a simple little girl who reportedly has no memory of what happened to her.

9/11 is the worst tragedy to happen on our shores since the Civil War and, like the Civil War, we have made a cottage industry out of it.

It is hard to defend as a coping mechanism.


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