9/11: an unexpected parochial perspective

My wife had forgotten to email something home to herself and it was pressing, so yesterday evening before dinner I drove her over to campus. She's a professor and her department caters to graduate students only. We were on our way to her office when we ran into a couple of her students, there for an evening class with another professor. We're in New York State at a state university, so the students tend to be in-state.

The conversation was pretty short as their class was about to start, but one of the topics it ran to was 9/11. We were talking about my daughter, who has a history teacher she likes, unusual because she does not like the subject. The teacher used to be a helicopter-based traffic reporter in NYC and was in the air over Manhattan on 9/11. That's a perspective I'd love to hear about, but that's not the perspective in the title.

The students talked about being very young when it happened, like about seven years old. That was enough of a curve - I'm getting old. One of the students was from Long Island, obviously pretty close to the events, and he said something completely unexpected:

He thought of 9/11 as a local phenomenon, by which I mean strictly local. He made a remark indicating that he didn't think people in the rest of the country paid much attention to it. I stopped him and said the phenomenon absolutely was not local. He replied that, you know, I mean people out on the Midwest who have no local connection to New York.

I was in Indiana on 9/11 and told him so. People there sure didn't view it as local. I wouldn't assume any Americans did but I guess if you're seven years old you don't know that and maybe no one ever tells you.

Having grown up in New York, I'm aware of how parochial it is. That old New Yorker cover with the world map was barely exaggerated - if you're not from New York, you won't understand how barely.

It's funny how diametrically opposite my perspective on 9/11 is from that of my wife's student. As a former New Yorker but one who has spent most of my life out of New York, I'm conscious of how it's viewed. One phenomenon that really struck me about 9/11 - and which I never saw discussed anywhere - was how New York's metaphorical location changed. At 8:00 AM on 9/11, most of the country thought of Manhattan as maybe a hundred miles West of France. Four hours later it might as well have been next to Omaha or Oklahoma City. It went from being distrusted as too foreign and too disconnected from Real America to being the most American location on the planet in the course of a morning.

I'd have told the student that people knew where they were on 9/11 like they did when the Kennedy assassination happened but I'm pretty sure he wouldn't get it.

Views: 330

Comment by Jonathan Wolfman on September 13, 2017 at 11:16am

I think, perhaps, we see, even as adults, partially at least, through the far more limited emotional lenses we had as youngsters living through cultural traumas. 

Comment by Foolish Monkey on September 13, 2017 at 11:42am

kosh you ARE giving far too much credence to a smart assed kid.  
as I see it, kids LOVE to hear themselves think out loud.  you're the professor's son, so who better than to impress with one's deep thinking. 

also - long island is just as idiotic and inbred as upstate.  we have enclaves in NYState.  for real.  (rosi notwithstanding)

please.  quoting a teenager who says something as dumb as that is a little like pissing in the wind.  all you're doing is getting your shoes all pissed up.

and now I WILL go outside.

good day to you, sir!!

Comment by alsoknownas on September 13, 2017 at 12:04pm

The two hour meeting I had this a.m. with a 40 year old tech whiz and a 51 year old, convinced me not to reference age negatively. While he looks like he belongs on the cover of GQ and she is a former beauty queen pageant winner, they both said it just doesn't matter.

They said that experience, if touted gently is what even the millennials seek and will appreciate.


 Nonetheless, my plan is to switch to vlogging for biz marketing and just make sure that my experienced forehead doesn't give off a glare in the lights only a pair of those eclipse sunglasses could soften.

Comment by Safe Bet's Amy on September 13, 2017 at 12:36pm

Yeah...  kinda like this...

Image result for male menopause funny

Comment by Foolish Monkey on September 13, 2017 at 1:14pm

Aka. A 40 year old and a 51 year old - pretty or not - arent kids. Not even close.  I don't discount what young people say unless theyre spouting idiocy which this one seemed to be.  

9-11 wasn't remotely local. It not only changed the united states and how we view other countries ie - as friends or not, it is A fact that it changed the makeup of the entire world. and not in a good way either. 

Comment by Boanerges on September 13, 2017 at 1:45pm

Have to agree. I was on vacation from my then-job of national and international news editor for a regional paper in Canada. As was usual, I was groggling around drinking coffee and trying to wake up when the phone rang. It was my daughter telling me to turn on the television. I did just in time to see the second plane hit. It was anything but a local event.

Comment by koshersalaami on September 13, 2017 at 2:05pm


Not a teenager, a grad student. I think of as a kid because I'm in my sixties, but not really a kid. 

I am not a professor's son, I'm a professor's husband. My mother got her college education while I was growing up and my father graduated high school at night. I did not grow up in an academic or professional household. 

And most of all:

I do not think, and never have thought, that 9/11 was a local event. The fact that I found such a viewpoint so unusual is why I wrote this post. It is not necessary to tell me that it was not a local event. I know that. 

Comment by alsoknownas on September 13, 2017 at 2:06pm

uhh...Thanks FM. No idea why you are "telling" me that.

My point, apparently obscure, is that age should never be a factor when believing or not believing someone.

I get called old here by some. Rather bizarre I think if one's purported goal is inclusion and understanding.

As for the kid in the post, now 16 years older, it sounds to me as if he is not even well informed yet.

Comment by Boanerges on September 13, 2017 at 2:40pm

Didn't make myself clear. I know YOU know it wasn't local, I just don't understand how any sentient being (even a grad student, which I once was) could think so. All he had to do was look at the stats to know that the deaths affected countries around the world. It wasn't wholly a Manhattan, New York or even American tragedy.

Comment by Foolish Monkey on September 13, 2017 at 2:54pm

AKA I addressed you because you chose to address what I said about that young man and not only do I not agree with you, your example of "kids" was adults in their 40s and 50s - the ages of my grown sons, one of whom has kids of his own in their twenties.  so they've seen life.  and I would never expect something that dumb to come from them.  possibly something as controversial, but nothing quite that clueless. 

I absolutely discount idiotic statements by teenagers when they are obviously idiotic statements from teenagers.  there IS a difference between an adult making statements like that, and a kid.  and it comes from having raised kids because you can be sitting there with them and they will blurt out the damndest stupidiest shit as they and their friends will sit around filling one another to the brim with cluelessness, bluster and arrogance, JUST because they've got a few short hairs and they're not getting carded as often as they were. 

there is such beauty in them, which is often offset with the crudest, basest stupidity. 

and with any luck, they grow up and out of it and they learn.


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