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How do you celebrate a tragedy?

With the twentieth anniversary of 9/11 this year, American networks were filled with memorials and special presentations.  They reviewed the events that changed the lives of so many Americans – and Canadians – from various viewpoints:  the government agencies investigating, the front line emergency workers, the unsung heroes.  Even the reporters, themselves, retold their stories as they experienced it first-hand while the rest of us were glued to our TVs.

Yes, back in the day we were actually watching on TV’s at home, at work, in bars, at electronics stores. Planes crashing, buildings falling, workers searching for bodies, family members wandering and waiting with photos of their loved ones.  It was a never-ending loop of horror that lasted for months.

Of course, 20 years later, those same TV networks are re-running those stories to celebrate (maybe not the right word) the anniversary of that awful day.  This weekend, former – and current – presidents and political analysts spoke of that day and the way it shaped the years that followed.

Once again, there’s been a lot to watch on TV.  Except this time, I didn’t.

A fact I was almost embarrassed to admit when asked the next day.  Was this proof of my self-centred personality?  Or did I just not care twenty years later?

After all, Donald Trump certainly has been lambasted in the media for hosting a “9/11 boxing match” this past weekend instead of attending of honouring the fallen.  It really shouldn’t be a surprise.  After the collapse of the World Trade Centre, he bragged in 2021 that he now had the tallest building downtown.  So who thought he’d actually take a moment in 2021 to attend a memorial?

His psychologist niece has happily hit the networks, explaining Donald’s lack of empathy and inability to understand tragedy. Not being a fan of the man, I can’t completely disagree with her.

But do we have to tune in and tear up in order to care?  Is that how we measure our humanity?  By turning on the TV?

9/11 was a strike by terrorists against our beliefs and our way of life.  Canadians struck back by taking in planefuls of stranded passengers into their homes and families that day.  We’ve spent twenty years working with countries around the world to fight terrorism.  And we continue to try to support each other at home when we uncover hidden horrors from our past underground.

So if instead of crying in front of the boob tube, you chose to watch the Superman and Lois season finale on Friday night, you’re not a bad person.  If you chose to spend some long-overdue time with friends on Saturday, be proud of that.

We honour the thousands who were lost that day and whose names we will never know, not by watching memorial specials, but by living our lives in appreciation of what we still have.  By realizing that it could be gone in a second.

And not just because we changed the channel.