Nine years later, how to mark 9/11?

Commemorations, protests and unrelated events scheduled for the anniversary

  • Local runner Rich Fitzpatrick and Melbourne resident Tony Martin, running their stint in the Tour of Duty run to honor the fallen firefighters at the World Trade Center.
Local runner Rich Fitzpatrick and Melbourne resident Tony… (Gene Sweeney Jr., Baltimore…)
September 10, 2010|By Jean Marbella, The Baltimore Sun

On what promises to be a sparkling fall-like day, today will be filled with no shortage of events: festivals celebrating beer in Bel Air and the Hampden neighborhood in Baltimore, still another tea party march on the Washington Mall and, perhaps, someone somewhere burning a Quran.

It is a disparate group of events for any day, let alone this one: But the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, arrives at a time of no real consensus on how to mark the day — or even the role the event plays in the nation's history.

"We are still coming to terms with what it means to us," said Jason Loviglio, a professor of American studies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. "We struggle with how to fit it into how we look at the world, and even who is included in the 'we' of America."

Loviglio, who also directs UMBC's media and communications department, has taught seminars and classes looking at the political, historical and cultural impacts of 9/11. That the date itself has a unique resonance sets it apart from other important landmarks in American history, he said.

"9/11 is called 9/11. We don't say, 'Dec. 7,' or 'Aug. 6 and 9' " to refer to the attack on Pearl Harbor or the U.S. bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Loviglio said. "Those events aren't called by their date the way 9/11 is. It makes the tension [over 9/11] much more profound."

In the first years after 2001, the anniversary of 9/11 was devoted largely to remembrance and calls for national unity. While memorial services will take place on this anniversary as well — most notably at the attack sites of Ground Zero in New York, the Pentagon outside Washington and the field in Shanksville, Pa., where Flight 93 crashed — other events will reflect how much has changed in the intervening years.

On the one hand, the day has been drawn into the current fractious political climate, with the conservative figures Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck, for example, hosting a 9/11 rally in Anchorage, Alaska, for which Ticketmaster is selling tickets for up to $200 each — your choice of a wet (alcohol available) or dry section and a VIP package that includes a meet-and-greet with Beck.

And then there are the groups that, in the name of 9/11, either are rallying against the Islamic cultural center proposed near Ground Zero or threatening to burn copies of the Quran today.

But on the other hand, the day has become, in some respects, more like any other day in September. This year, with 9/11 falling on a Saturday, many organizations are holding festivals, sporting events and other gatherings that in earlier years might have been scheduled for another day. The date still gives pause, even if planners ultimately decide to go ahead and have their event..

"For a second, we thought maybe we should change it," said Elizabeth Hanfman, marketing director of DuClaw Brewing, which is holding its third annual Real Ale Festival in Bel Air today. "We always have it on the second Saturday in September, so people were kind of expecting it."

Like others hosting events today, the brewery was somewhat boxed in by the calendar: There aren't that many weekends in September if you're trying to avoid Labor Day or other previously scheduled festivals later in the month.

That is why the Charm City Roller Girls are hosting an all-star bout at the Clarence Du Burns Arena tonight, squeezing it in between the regular season and a series of regional tournaments.

"We have people serving in the military currently — we have one person, a referee, who is going to Afghanistan in a week — so it's not that we don't respect the day," said Hilary Rosensteel, who skates for the Night Terrors as Rosie the Rioter.

Depending on what other participants decide, Rosensteel said, there might be a moment of silence to mark the anniversary, at what otherwise is expected to be a typically lively roller derby night. But unlike a long-standing holiday like Veterans Day, she said, it's not always clear how to mark 9/11.

"It is hard to know what's appropriate," Rosensteel said. "It's still so new."

The dilemma of whether to go about the business of daily life or to stop and remember the attacks and their victims has in some ways "been with us from the start," Loviglio said. To interrupt regular life unduly, he said, was seen as "letting the terrorists win."

"It was like the stoic, stiff upper lip of the British during the Blitz, when you swept the broken glass in the parlor, shaved and went to work. You would not break stride," Loviglio said. "That was an appealing image of resistance."

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