Since we're in the "Remember 9/11" season, I thought I'd offer my own take on that unique, pivotal day.
There is very little unique or pivotal about it -- other than the fact that it was broadcast live and in living color.
Fewer than 3,000 people died that day. No question that this is horrible for those personally involved, but for the rest of us there was really no tangible impact. How many people died in last year's earthquake in Pakistan? Remember that one?
Just under 80,000 -- or about 25X as many as died on 9/11. But 9/11 "changed everything?"
Tsunami, anyone? Car accidents? Lung cancer?
You counter that these are natural disasters, so they cannot be compared? OK, how many innocent people in Iraq died under U.S. bombs in the past year? Nobody knows, because the American authorities don't keep track of Iraqi dead (anyone guess why not?), but it was certainly far more than 3,000 (judging just by bodies brought to the Bagdad morgue).
More U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq than died on 9/11. But those deaths aren't televised. No funerals. No flag-draped coffins arriving. They are kept away from public consciousness, even as our noses are constantly rubbed in 9/11. It's not about what we know -- it's about what we see.
As a culture, the U.S. has crossed over to virtual reality. What happens is no longer as important as what appears to happen. The Bush administration knows this all too well. They know they can keep repeating the same lies over and over and eventually these falsehoods will become woven into the fabric of what most Americans consider to be "reality." "Reality shows" are scripted and edited. The war in Iraq is part of the war on terrorism. America is the land of the free. Republicans will protect your family. Democrats are tax and spend liberals who are soft on the enemy. Wonderbread builds strong bodies. Coke is the Real Thing.
What's special about 9/11 is presentation. Nothing else. Imagery. Camera angles. Flames. Dramatic footage of people plummeting to their deaths.
9/11 is the best-marketed tragedy in history.