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Normal

02/13/02 12:00AM By David Moats

It finally hit me the other day that Sept. 11 is over. It's not that we've forgotten what happened that day, and it's not that things aren't different. It's just that, in a peculiar way, things are getting back to normal.

Super Bowl Sunday convinced me of this. The festivities that day did what our culture always seems to do with what's important: It made it into a huge, exploitive TV spectacle.

I've been as moved as anybody by the heroism of New York's police and firefighters, and I've heard spine-tingling first-person accounts from friends who had to run for their lives that day. There was a story of parents and baby clinging to each other in the cloud of dust and a reporter friend who followed her instinct by riding her bike toward the disaster until a cop finally grabbed her by the arm and shouted that she had to turn around.

We've all heard stories, and we've all been touched.

But by the time the Super Bowl came around, Sept. 11 had become something different. I don't know about you, but if a loved one of mine had been among the casualties, I think I would have cringed to see the victims' names scrolling into the air behind U2. It didn't seem to me these people were being honored. It seemed they were being used to sell cars or beer.

That's what I mean by back to normal. In the normal course of events, TV sucks up everything in the culture and turns it into commerce. But we're getting back to normal in other ways, too.

We all had a sense that our economy was on the ropes, and there was an air of uncertainty about the future. But now things seem to be bouncing back a little bit. Economists aren't even sure if we're still in recession.

Politics is back to normal, too. President Bush has decided to use Sept. 11 the same way the Super Bowl did - as a selling tool. He has proposed a budget that is so out of whack it brings back memories of Ronald Reagan. In the name of security, he proposes to spend billions on unnecessary weaponry and to spoon out billions more to the wealthiest among us.

You can only hold on to the shock and the grief for so long, and eventually an event like Sept. 11 is going to fade into the past. And as the real emotions fade, they're going to be replaced by the fake, and we're going to wonder why something like the Super Bowl halftime show or the rhetoric of our leaders doesn't touch us.

So we ought to try to remember the real emotion we felt, the real sadness, the real anger and shock, the real pride we felt in our fellow Americans. No halftime show, no TV tribute, will ever do it justice.

This is David Moats from Middlebury.

--David Moats is the Editorial Page Editor for the Rutland Herald and winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing.
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