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Published: Tuesday, 9/11/2007

Markdown of 9/11 'gifts' may reflect U.S. psyche

Again, it is Tuesday. Another election day, even.

It remains to be seen whether today, as Bruce Springsteen sang, the sky will indeed be "the same unbelievable blue."

In New York City today, for the first time the ceremony marking 9/11/01 will not take place at Ground Zero, where construction is moving victims' families to a nearby park instead.

In Toledo, also for the first time since the attacks of that day, the city of Toledo won't be holding a memorial. Instead, the mayor will order the flags lowered. He'll ask us to take a moment and remember this day.

As yesterday's Blade story put it: Local commemorations are generally growing smaller and more intimate

We've roused ourselves from sleep and started a new day on 2,191 other mornings since then.

How long is long enough? When does collective national grief turn inward and become private?

Should it?

Anyone who's buried a loved one knows: There is no timetable for grief.

We are pained, we mourners, by any hint that there is some date by which we should be "over" death.

So what, then, of an entire nation that suffers? What of a nation that loses 3,000-plus people, but also - in the same slo-mo, rerun morning - loses much of the society's openness? We've been circling the wagons ever tighter for six years now.

If polls tell we're weary of the Iraq War that followed Sept. 11, are we weary of commemorating the event itself?

In our pixilated, televised memories, the towers fall and fall and fall. Again and again. Over and over.

We see footage of dust rising six years ago, and still our hearts sink, even now, after life has plunged ahead. But do they sink a little less now?

Maybe, watching again this time (as you know TV will make sure we do today), reality will intrude a little faster.

Oh Lord, look at that building collapse!

Pause.

Did I leave the front-yard sprinkler on?

Moving forward is inevitable and healthy, even as so much of our public life remains ruled by Sept. 11. War. "Homeland" security. Reapportioned federal budgets. Civil liberties. A presidential election that cannot and should not dodge the consequences of terrorism.

Then again, what barometer of the American psyche is more accurate than its products? No one seems incensed today that a New York City online store features an entire 9/11 gift section.

The Twin Towers statue, $41.99. Or the set of six WTC notecards that "will truly impress your friends and family," $16. Is a replica of the Chambers Street subway sign for the WTC station a bargain at $29?

But then, what does it mean when a 9/11 memorial lapel pin "featuring the stars and stripes of USA's flag" is reduced from $6.99 to $4.99?

Same with the "Gone But Not Forgotten T-Shirt," a tribute to the city's brave police and fire heroes "who gave their lives on 9/11," now on sale at $21.99.

Grievous memories on mark-down.

Is that the American way?



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