The hand-wringing sentimental Niagara has begun.
My latest copy of New York magazine arrived, its cover a color photo of the dust cloud after the fall of the Twin Towers. Inside, it offers an alphabet (!?) of all things 9/11, from three men named Michael Lynch who died that day to a mini-profile of the last person pulled from the Trade Center wreckage.
Stop. Just stop.
I was shocked at my reaction when I tried to read that issue. I fought back tears, then had nightmares after I read some of it. So did the sweetie. We’re both hardened, seasoned mid-career news journalists, accustomed to handling difficult and emotional material.
No matter. It’s just too damn much.
Here’s The New York Times‘ survey of how some journalists are covering this 10th anniversary:
The National Geographic Channel has scheduled a marathon of related coverage on Sept. 11.
Other outlets also decided to try to get out ahead of the pack. Adam Moss, the editor of New York magazine, decided its issue — an A to Z compendium of Sept. 11-related vignettes — should be published well ahead of the 10th anniversary so it would reach readers before the onslaught of coverage began.
“I’m sure, inevitably, people will feel it’s too much and shut down at some point,” he said. “We just hoped we could get what we feel is a pretty good issue out there before others did.”
I was in Maryland that day and the sweetie was all packed, everything he owned ready to move from Brooklyn into my apartment 30 miles north. Instead, as a photo editor for The New York Times, he was pressed into immediate service on the biggest news story of the century. The paper won the team Pulitzer for their work that day.
But we both tasted far more of 9/11 than we had ever wished. Burned bits of paper floated into his backyard. I interviewed a volunteer who worked at the morgue and cried for 30 minutes after I hung up the phone, my professional composure shattered by the hideous details of what I heard.
For my first book, I interviewed Patty Varone, a true unsung heroine of that day whose name is unknown to almost every American — but whose role in it was essential. I’m the only journalist she ever spoke to.
She was for years his personal bodyguard, and so it was she who interrupted Mayor Giuliani’s hotel breakfast meeting that morning to tell him he had to leave at once. It was she who had to keep him safe — how? — as debris and bodies rained from the skies when they arrived at the attack site in downtown Manhattan.
It takes a lot to rattle an 18-year NYPD veteran. She had a tough time telling me her story. I’m grateful she shared it.
Journalists — print, film and broadcast — saw and heard far more than many civilians did that day. Many things we know and saw were carefully edited out of much of what you, the reading/viewing public, “know” about 9/11. We still carry smells, sights and sounds we wish we could scrub from our memory, but we can’t.
We know people who lost loved ones. We know fellow journalists physically and emotionally scarred by the events of that day.
So I have no need, and very little appetite, for any more of this.
How about you?