My tenth-grade American history teacher once told us that in the Civil War, twice as many men died of disease than died in combat.
That macabre Snapple fact is all I really remember from that class. It felt weighty, highlighting something that seemed revelatory because it was suddenly so goddamn obvious: War doesn’t exist in a vacuum. War exists in this world—this brutally unsexy place of sandwiches, video games, baseball, friends, soda, Walmart, foot cramps, allergies, and—of course—cold weather and disease. Maybe I was slow on the uptake, but this blew my little 15-year-old mind.
Now, ten years later, Magnum’s Peter van Agtmael plops his new book Disco Night Sept 11on my desk, and I’m suddenly having the revelation all over again, only this time with a more immediate relevance and bite.
People and Brands Have No Idea How to Commemorate 9/11
On September 11, 2001, I didn’t really know what to do. I didn’t actually need to doanything—when the planes hit, I was on way to my high school in Seattle, Washington, 3,000 miles and three time zones away from the attack—but I remember feeling odd and disconnected and powerless. History was happenening, everyone knew that, yet unless you were in lower Manhattan you couldn’t do anything other than pray, watch TV, and wait for the next morning’s newspaper to come out. (In 2001, I’m pretty sure my parents still had dial-up internet, and I don’t think I knew anyone with a smartphone that could bring up the news instantaneously.)
Now September 11th is officially Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance, because America needs another excuse to wave the flag and act serious and angry and pious. The problem is, we still don’t know what to do. Volunteering someplace seems like a good idea, though not everyone has the time to do that in the middle of the week. Spending a few minutes of thoughtful silence contemplating our mortality and our place in the world also couldn’t hurt. In the past, people have gathered together for rallies, some of which were basically excuses to bash Muslims. Hopefully fewer people are doing that.
But as the day becomes less and less connected to historical events—Osama bin Laden is dead, the US is finally, little by little, pulling troops out of Afghanistan—it’s a little unclear what the socially acceptable way to commemorate Patriot Day is.
Month by month, the canon of bin Laden death literature grows ever larger. Late last year, the books began trickling out and have since turned into a stream. Now there’s a full on torrent. In May 2012, Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden—from 9/11 to Abbottabad was released. A few months later, came No Easy Day, a memoir by a Navy SEAL who had been on the raid. Mark Bowden’s The Finish: The Killing of Osama Bin Ladenfollowed shortly. Two days after the election, SEAL Target Geronimo: The Inside Story of the Mission to Kill Osama bin Laden came out. And in December, yet another book, entitled Killing Geronimo: The Hunt for Osama bin Laden, will be released.
What Sort of Person Still Thinks That 9/11 Was an Inside Job?
As you’ve probably noticed from the wealth of “I remember where I was when…” Facebook statuses, today is the 11th anniversary of the most important day in modern history. The day when the world went from being one, big back-slapping party with Bill Clinton serenading Tony Blair with sax solos, to the era of fear, loathing, and Eminem that wouldn’t subside until a Hawaiian guy who claimed to like Lil’ Wayne pulled us out in a fireman’s lift of optimism.
It feels strange looking back on a not-that-recent-any-more tragedy; we’ve moved on from the grief to the “never forget” stage. The common response has been dignified respect for the victims, and reflection on the wider ramifications of that fateful day. Of course there are people who feel the need to tell us what they were watching on the other channel (I was at the dentist’s and when I was told, I imagined it to be a comical incident involving a bi-plane, if you’re interested), there’s little hand wringing or vicarious cloying to get worked up about.
Sadly, what there are is plenty of conspiracy loons. The people who just won’t believe the “official version of events” and instead subscribe to respected authorities like Alex Jones, Charlie Sheen, and some anonymous whistle-blower with MS Paint's version of events. These people aren't even of the “We'll never really know what happened,” school of thought; these are people who are 100 percent convinced that Dick Cheney was flying planes into buildings like a problem child with an Airfix model.
But who the hell are they? And what else do they enjoy doing besides casting aspersions on logic? Let’s find out.
Nicola Jane likes: - The television show Hollyoaks - The television personality Khloe Kardashian - Tweeting the lyrics of forgotten US R&B star Tweet (what a coindence) - Tweeting the lyrics of not-forgotten US R&B star Marvin Gaye - Vanilla lattes - National Cheesecake Day
Liyah Nichelle likes: - The rapper Wiz Khalifa - The pop star Ciara - Cookies with chocolate on the bottom - The Twitter account @Hilarious_Dude - The Twitter account @FemalePains - The Buddhist concept karma
Look, we’ve been through this before. Anyone who still thinks that we predicted 9/11 in 1994, understand this: THE 1994 ISSUE WAS A JOKE WRITTEN IN 2009 TO CELEBRATE OUR FIFTEENTH ANNIVERSARY. Apparently, writing an article called “What Is Al-Qaeda?” was a much smarter joke than we ever realized, because again and again people are holding it up as an example of us being in collusion with the American government to pull off the biggest terrorist attack in human history.
One more time: The drawing of Beavis and Butthead flying around the World Trade Center, which we ran in 2009, doesn’t have any bearing on 9/11 at all. It was just us having a lol. Using it to prove that Bush is an Illuminati puppet is a little like using the “chicken crossing the road” joke to prove that the egg came first.
We kept the secret for 10 long years, but some nosey dinks finally pulled off our human-masks revealing the scaly, reptilian faces underneath.
In 2009, we celebrated our 15th birthday by publishing a “lost” magazine from 1994. Recently, an article from that 1994 Issue entitled What Is Al-Qaeda? has been making rounds among the 9/11 Truth Movement. To cut a long, strange story short, some folks believe we knew about 9/11 seven years before it happened.