My little brother's wife, Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas, died on United Airlines Flight 93 when it crashed in a Pennsylvania field on September 11, 2001. When I see photos of the memorial erected there, I am pleased that it is not festooned with a really big US flag, or dozens of small ones.
I've always felt that the flag-waving response to September 11 is wrongheaded and shallow. I realize it was an attack on our country and the flags are well-meant attempts to display unity. But our self-absorbed knee-jerk nationalism is part of the problem that made some people hate us enough to conduct the September 11 attacks. It annoys me that people don't seem to get that irony, and believe that buying and waving a flag (which was probably made in China) is a sufficient commemoration.
Perhaps waving flags of all nations, or a flag with an earth and human faces of all colors on it would be more appropriate. Sadly, that symbolism may be too complex or even blasphemous to many Americans. The general feeling persists that September 11 was, more than anything else, a profoundly American tragedy. Little recognition is given to the reality that it was a human tragedy visited upon citizens of the world, and above all upon the families of the victims, who actually live in many nations.
When commemorating September 11, Americans seem to prefer to chew on the national sore tooth rather than acknowledge that the cause of and the solution to such violence are both bigger than any one country, and within our own hearts.
To their credit, sometimes the commemorations do make note of the tragic fallout which can never be disconnected with September 11. I think that, at every single solemn ceremony on September 11 henceforth, somebody should stand up and say,
"In addition to the 4000 who died today we also commemorate the tens of thousands more in Afghanistan, Iraq, the US and elsewhere whose death sentences were written in the events of this day. The faces of innocent victims of September 11 are of every color, every age and every nationality. And they did not all die in America on September 11, 2001."
Rather than diminishing a commemoration of our family members' deaths, such a reference would bring more context and more significance to their sacrifice.
September 11 victims' family members have a different experience of the day than most Americans. For me, one of them is frustration that the tragedy, and what it means to those it touched the most, is so poorly understood by the ignoble throngs who feel the need to make superficial and self-serving gestures. This is one reason why many of us choose to avoid all media reporting around this date. What we feel in our hearts for our loss and for the losses of countless other families who also lost loved ones as a result, can never be represented by mere flag waving.
Please, save your flags for the 4th of July. Spend September 11 thinking instead about what you can do to make the world a less violent place.
7:35 AM PT: Note: This diary was submitted as a letter to the editor of the Lincoln, Nebraska newspaper, the Lincoln Journal-Star. To date it has not been published, in whole or in part, and it is not known whether it will be published.