Monday, September 17, 2001

Remember 9-11-01

Finding our way in
a brave new world

The issue: America has come
through the first week of the era
that began on Black Tuesday.

At the end of this first week of the unnamed new era that began with the terrorist attack on New York and Washington, maybe it's time to see where we are and where we go from here.

Looking back, one can only be awed by the courage and heroics of uncounted thousands of Americans and the genuine love of country that has washed over the nation. A wild guess is that we have seen only a small portion of the bravery and that many more selfless acts have gone to the grave with those who perished. The surge of patriotism has been all around us in ways great and small.

Surely the response has shown that the terrorists and their masterminds are guilty of gross miscalculation, just as were those who attacked Pearl Harbor 60 years ago. There has been some debate over whether the Pearl Harbor analogy is valid, but the parallels in the American reaction cannot be denied. Osama bin Laden, meet Hideki Tojo.

Perhaps some good will come of this as potential adversaries of the United States take note of what happens when the Americans are aroused. It should give pause to those who think that the soft, pampered Americans will not defend themselves. The terrorists sought to demoralize us, to have us cower in fear, to slam us and our institutions into gridlock. While they have caused enormous disruption, in the long run they will fail miserably.

A letter from a 16-year-old high school girl, Rachel Allocco of Phoenix, however, puts the rush of patriotism into a new context. "Why are the American people so intent on portraying their patriotism only after tragedy has fallen on our country?" she writes. "Does it really take an attack on American soil to get the American people involved?"

This young woman, perhaps wise beyond her years, holds up a beacon as we grope our way into the future. Maybe the best thing that Americans can do now to show that they cannot be beaten is to get back to normal life. Normal today does not mean the normal of last Monday, and it will be a while before any of us can say what the new normal is, except that it should retain some of the spirit of the past week.

An Irish priest once said in a sermon: "Do not concern yourselves with the extraordinary things of life but rather try to do the ordinary things of life very well." The best thing that Americans can do for their country now is to get back to normal, to do the ordinary very well, or a bit better.

TV coverage will
not be forgotten

The issue: Television provided
graphic coverage of the
disasters through the week.

WORKING under the duress of the biggest story in years, television producers and correspondents provided Americans with extraordinary coverage of the attack on New York and Washington. Uninterrupted by commercials, the nation's networks worked nonstop to report on developments, often within seconds of their occurrence and with admirable restraint, compassion and few mistakes.

Networks that have been vying for ratings with their latest versions of "reality" TV were suddenly thrust into more nonfiction drama than anyone could have expected. Television viewers were stunned at seeing the two World Trade Center towers crumble to the ground after being struck by hijacked airliners.

Interviews in subsequent days of people clinging to photographs of their missing spouses and friends were handled with delicacy. The tears of those who retained hope late in the week were often joined by the tears of those doing the interviewing, and of people watching the interviews at home.

Tales of heroics aboard the airplane that crashed in Pennsylvania and of life-saving efforts inside the towers of steel will be remembered. However, reports that five survivors had been discovered beneath the rubble turned out to be false. Reports about a second wave of terrorism emanating from two New York airports also were erroneous, partly because of misleading information provided by authorities.

Videotapes of the two towers being attacked by the planes, set afire and then crumbling were played over and over again on all networks, as introductory or conclusory footage and as background or split-screen visuals shown with interviews. "Every time you see the pictures, you get madder and madder," said Steve Friedman, a CBS producer.

It the eyes of some viewers, perhaps many, the constant replay was overdone. Washington Post columnist Howard Kurtz said the repetition "trivializes and dehumanizes" the disaster and compared it with showing John F. Kennedy getting shot every five minutes in the TV coverage of the 1963 assassination. That, of course, is conjecture because such footage was not available at the time.

Towers burning and crumbling and victims jumping from the skyscrapers to escape the heat will never be erased from the minds of people who viewed the disaster on TV.

Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, President

John Flanagan, publisher and editor in chief 529-4748;
Frank Bridgewater, managing editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner,
assistant managing editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, assistant managing editor 529-4762;

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