The Limits of Time

The most evocative piece I have read yet in this course is Rieff’s “The limits of remembrance.” I find it interesting that Rieff essentially says the remembrance and commemoration of the September 11th attacks will one day go the way of Pearl Harbor. His article seems to be a bit “too soon” as he compares the American celebrations of the Fourth of July to the ceremonies commemorating the tenth anniversary of the attacks. The assertion that these ceremonies will take place “in this spirit” of celebration is grotesque. To compare the fraternal bond which comes from suffering through an event and a celebration of the nation’s founding does not fall in the same vein. On September 11, 2011, the nation will not be celebrating, but rather will be in a united state of mourning.

Rieff’s criticisms of the American society come too soon following such a horrific event. To say that President Roosevelt never claimed December 7, will always live in infamy seems irrelevant, because the words “We will never forget 9/11” do not necessarily mean “The world will never forget 9/11” or even “America will never forget 9/11.” It simply means that Americans at that moment will not forget 9/11. This is not an example of Americans “fetishizing” change, but rather a commitment by those who witnessed 9/11 to carry on its legacy.

This is not to say that the attacks on 9/11 will never fade or become more distant in people’s minds, especially those not directly affected by the attacks. However, I am sure anyone who lost a family member in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, or in Lancaster, PA will never forget the attacks on 9/11. In fact, I challenge anyone to watch footage of the attacks or pictures of “the falling man” without becoming emotional. These media documents are yet another important primary source, which separates the 9/11 attacks from Pearl Harbor. Generations will be able to watch the raw footage of the 9/11 attacks, unlike Pearl Harbor.

Some of Rieff’s points do have sound grounding. Of course, the 9/11 attacks will not be remembered the same now as they will be in 30 years. There is no way to maintain the same level of mourning as there is now. However, Rieff’s stark criticism of American society is out of taste and has no place just days before the ten year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

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About Chris DiBari

Chris is a student at Brooklyn College and Macaulay Honors College at CUNY. Born in Illiniois, Chris has lived in a number of different places including: Newport, RI, Key West, FL, Chesapeake, VA, Pittsburgh, PA, Warren, NJ, and currently lives in Brooklyn. He is living in the dorms, but soon hopes to leave and move to a different part of Brooklyn. Chris is undecided in his major, but has passions in the social sciences, and next semester hopes to take a few more history classes. Chris is currently pursuing his goal of becoming a United States Marine Corps officer through the Platoon Leader's Class option and applying to the United States Naval Academy.