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.

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Comment by Foolish Monkey on September 13, 2017 at 2:56pm

age IS a factor.  it's always a factor, especially in this case.  I can almost guarantee this young man who is smart enough to educate himself will kick himself in the ass for saying such a profoundly dumb thing to the husband of his professor.  

Comment by Foolish Monkey on September 13, 2017 at 3:00pm

that was a mistype.  I know it was your wife.  :)

Comment by Foolish Monkey on September 13, 2017 at 3:23pm

Let me be clear - I don't routinely discount what a person says because of their age.  Nor do I assume, when someone is older - they're experts and what they're saying is accurate or truth.

But when I hear a young person say words so profoundly moronic and short sighted as this young man put forth, I tend to shrug and write them off as too yojng to know what in hell they're saying.  and I don't give it another thought.  they have a lot of growing up to do.  or suffer the consequences of being an idiot who has no reservations spouting laughable shit. 

9-11 isn't an ordinary topic.  it's frought with enormous pain, it's personal and an epic matter inciting powerful emotional responses from most everyone, PARTICULARLY New Yorkers.  to say something so stupid, particulartly to one's professor's husband is astounding hubris.

Comment by alsoknownas on September 13, 2017 at 3:45pm



 I wasn't responding to you at all. I was speaking to k/s in a public forum. Hang on I'll go see what you said...

Nope. Just talking to k/s. Sorry.

And I can't figure out what is you disagree with me about either.

My entire point was that even though some here think it's ok to bash others for being old, which I do not think I am, I met with these two this morning and they agreed that age is unimportant because people can be smart or ridiculous at any age.

I thought it seemed marginally relevant but certainly not something I would think many would find disagreeable.

Is that what you disagree with today? I don't get it.

Comment by Foolish Monkey on September 13, 2017 at 4:09pm

aka, perhaps we posted our comments at the same time.

however I found this rather odd, regardless:

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.........

what difference does it make whether they're good looking or not? 

knowlege has nothing to do with looks.  but it DOES have a lot to do with age because it absolutely has everything to do with experience and life. 

as I said above, that young man someday is going to wince every time he remembers that once he made such a ridiculously stupid and insensitive comment about 9-11 to his professor's husband. (if he's as smart as he should be, being that he's endeavoring to educate himself)

THESE are the very moments that come back to us, that teach us what idiots we can be when we're young.  

of course, maybe he won't feel that way.  but somehow I just think this was stupidity and hubris and liking the sound of his own voice making such an outlandish statement. 

Comment by alsoknownas on September 13, 2017 at 4:28pm

Well FM, back at ya.

What the hell does it matter if I said that?

 But since you feel like pushing I guess I'll tell you that although they are both good looking, which believe it or not can make people targets for discrimination in that others sometimes think an air head must be inside, they are decent and smart people. So maybe I was making two points in one.


Hell If I know. I don't listen to me that closely; Too much odd stuff.

Comment by koshersalaami on September 13, 2017 at 4:30pm

That the student said it in front of me is less important than that he was also speaking to my wife at the time. I'm just an accessory. 

What made me feel old is that there are adults who were little kids as recently as 9/11. 

I get where the student comes from. He's probably pretty apolitical, he has no reason to be very conscious of Afghanistan and no reason to be at all conscious of Iraq, and the people he knows who talk about 9/11 all had personal experiences. In his context, this assumption makes sense. It's reverse provincialism: we Aren't the center of the world. 

It never occurred to me that anything could add up to this.  But it did. 



Comment by Foolish Monkey on September 13, 2017 at 4:46pm

HAHAHAH  holy shit!  he said it in front of your wife?  
oh hell.  what a numbnuts!

if I were his mother, I'd smack him in the head!

Comment by Foolish Monkey on September 13, 2017 at 4:52pm

I felt the same way when I saw the 9-11 ceremony - those kids reading the names were babies when it happened.  I honestly think kids get 9-11.  my grandchildren get it.  they're all NYers but regardless (and don't get me wrong because they're kids and they can be numbnuts themselves) they are sensitive to the depth of that event.  

the truth - when it comes to catastophies, like 9-11 and even like these awful storms we're having, our feelings extend ourwards.  they're not local - not in the least.  we care.  we share what we have. we do what we can.

I will never forget that day, so long as I live. 

Comment by nanatehay on September 13, 2017 at 8:21pm

Yep. Parochialism isn't something that's particular to what East and West Coasters so charmingly refer to as The Fly-Over. I've encountered it over and over again in the Northeast, and live with it every day out here where so many people think everyone living east of Berkeley and west of Manhattan are Neanderthaloid, Skoal-chewing NASCAR fans.  


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