Don’t just mourn 9/11 but 8/29 too

A couple anniversaries passed recently. One was for 9/11. It’s been six years since 9/11 and we’ve created a sort of sacredness around that event. 9/11 was of course a tragic day, but I’ve also been a believer in keeping the event in historical context rather than treating it as an excuse to lose rationality. When we emphasize the never-before-seen destruction of 9/11 we short-sight things like Darfur or the genocide in Rwanda that have had higher death tolls. The parallel which we often associate 9/11 with, Pearl Harbor, resulted in the biggest war effort of this century for America, so when we equate 9/11 with Pearl Harbor, we have to be careful not to imply that the solution to 9/11 is to launch another big full-scale war, because that’s kind of what happened with Iraq.

It’s hard to equate one historic disaster with another, though. Rwanda and Darfur are things that didn’t happen in our country, but the death and destruction that happened with Hurricane Katrina, in our own country, is something that I don’t think we should forget. One main reason: With 9/11, all we can do is remember the dead. We can’t bring them back. With Hurricane Katrina, the victims are still there: entire cities along a region that stretches through four states filled with those that were let down by the government. The disaster of Hurricane Katrina isn’t an attack by a physical enemy and it’s not something we can solve by fighting a war. So if we’re going to continue to remember 9/11, remember 8/29 too.

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