James Holmes

What Is Appropriate on a Day of Remembrance?

Filed By James Holmes | September 11, 2012 6:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Media
Tags: 9/11, censorship, ethical dilemma, Jumping, September 11, Suicide

Twin-Towers-911.jpgToday I faced an ethical dilemma - one of the hardest to deal with since becoming the managing editor of Bilerico. In a post written to remember 9/11, pictures were included of victims jumping to their death from the Twin Towers. In the end, I chose not to post them.

There was debate amongst the ed team as to the role of journalism in these situations - is this editing out an important part of history, or is this a matter of respect for the families of the victims?

Like many of us in this country, the news coverage of that day and the live images of those desperate to escape are forever burned into my mind. I need no photos to remind me.

Just the images of the burning towers is enough to remind me of the horrible loss of life that day. But what about those who were too young to remember? Do they need to see people jumping to their death to understand what happened that day?

I was a junior in high school at the time and it was during the change between first and second block that the first tower fell. There was talk in the hallways that there had been some type of attack in New York. At the time, I honestly didn't even know the names of the buildings.

In my second block class, we remained mostly silent - fixated on the live coverage of the carnage. As the second tower fell, my English teach said to us in a very solemn voice, "This is your Pearl Harbor. This is your JFK assassination. You will remember where you were today for the rest of your life." And that is true.

I know that each year since, many news outlets have replayed their coverage from that day, but until this year, I never re-watched it. Knowing now what the events would do to our country over the next ten years - the fear and the wars - I mentally avoided the subject.

The Bush years made me bitter for many reasons - and in some ways it made me hate that day for all the wrong reasons. I felt that the government's response had let the terrorist win. We were afraid (for many just reasons) but we gave up many of our rights in the process, and allowed politicians to use it as an excuse to justify torture and just about anything that would otherwise be unpopular. But it was the Republicans - at least that's what I told myself - that used this inappropriately for political gains.

But this year - just over ten years later - the man behind the attacks is dead on the orders of a Democratic President. This is one of the reasons I watched the replay this morning. For all the bad, it reminded me of a time unity existed in our government, brief as it was.

The night Bin Laden was killed, my partner and I walked down to the White House to join the crowds of people there to celebrate. But as soon as I was there, I began to feel guilty. No matter the person, was it right to celebrate the death of another human being? I'm still not sure.

While watching the Democratic Convention last week - it bothered me to hear the Dems using Bin Laden's death as a rallying cry - especially because they were using it along side saving the automotive industry as a reason to reelect Obama. I know it is politically smart and touches much of the public, but it just rubbed me wrong.

So is it editing history if we choose not to show images of people choosing suicide over a fiery death? I'm not saying we shouldn't talk about it or forget it, but do we need to see it again to remember? To educate? Let me know what you think in the comments.

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