New York: New Yorkers are doing all they can to preserve the way September 11 is commemorated, and with it falling on a Tuesday for the first time since 2001, the day is another trigger of tragic memories.
And across the United States, September 11 will have much of the same emotional impact that has gripped the American psyche and dominated US political discourse for six years, an impact that will not soon ease, analysts say.
New York City will mark the event as it has for the past five anniversaries with a solemn ceremony punctuated by the reading of names of the 2,750 innocent people who died at the World Trade Center.
“I think one of the challenges that we as a society have is, how do you keep the memory of 9/11 alive and the lessons of something like 9/11 alive going forward for decades?” Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters on Monday.
New York television station WABC tried to deviate from the past by not broadcasting the reading of the names of the dead but backtracked in the face of stiff public opposition.
Bloomberg himself attempted to move this year’s commemoration entirely off site because Ground Zero, the site of the Twin Towers, is now a busy construction zone. Families of the victims protested and Bloomberg relented, allowing them limited access.
“It inhibited political speech,” said Doug Muzzio, public affairs professor at New York’s Baruch College. “That’s beginning to diminish but as long as there’s a war on terror and there’s a politics of terror, 9/11 is going to be a symbol of it.
“Without doubt it will persist through this election cycle,” he said.
NOT FADE AWAY
The term 9/11, using the American convention of enumerating the month before the date, summarizes the entire experience associated with the hijacked jetliner attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center, damaged the Pentagon and crashed a plane into a Pennsylvania field.
In all, 2,993 people died, including the 19 hijackers.
“It’s the kind of event that will not really fade emotionally until everyone who was alive at the time has died,” said Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.
“It takes a while. It was really the 1960s before you could discuss Pearl Harbor rationally without using epithets for the Japanese,” he said of Japan’s attack on the US base in Hawaii on December 7, 1941.
Nor can 9/11 be separated from politics, especially with former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani running for president. He leads most of the national polls for the Republican nomination, largely on the strength of his performance that day and his pledge to keep the country safe.
Some groups representing the families of victims opposed giving Giuliani a speaking role in the commemoration, raising concerns he would use the platform to promote his presidential aspirations. But Giuliani will speak as planned, and his aides have insisted that he will not politicize the event.
(Additional reporting by Edith Honan)