Remember Sept. 11 as it was, not as it is

Another Sept. 11. Another anniversary.

In the years between then and now, the day’s events have been rehashed, recounted and rebroadcast innumerable times. Enterprising businessmen began capitalizing on the tragedy immediately by selling American flags and “terrorist hunting permit” bumper stickers. Then came Sept. 11 memorial quarters, Osama bin Laden toilet paper, made-for-TV movies, “United We Stand” coffee mugs and “Never Forget” T-shirts (as though anybody would). In some cases, the profits went to charities created to assist victims and rescue workers. All too often, they went in someone’s pocket.

The commercial onslaught continues unabated. You can still buy many of the above items. Countless television networks continue to air “tributes” more akin to a “Best of Sept. 11” montage than any sort of respectable homage, and advertisers continue to pay premium prices for ad space on those programs. Others are throwing their hats in the ring, too. The edited video footage of Howard Stern’s Sept. 11 broadcast is now available – for a fee.

When the mass marketing of this era’s greatest tragedy will end is a topic for another time, because it certainly won’t stop soon. In light of that, it’s important for each and every American to make time for remembrance and reflection.

Today is about compassion, not collectibles. Connect to those close to you and honor those who lost their lives. Take time to reflect on where the nation has been and where it’s going. Talk to other people and find out what it all meant for them – or don’t. If your day is spent in quiet introspection, you’ve done more than enough – so long as you aren’t paying anybody for it.

Hundreds of millions of Americans will spend the rest of their lives coping with the havoc 19 determined individuals wreaked on this society five years ago. Remember the day’s events as they happened, not as someone wants you to believe they happened. Everybody’s experience on that day was unique.

Don’t let anyone sell you your memories or manipulate them for personal or political gain.