Commentary

Why September 12th Matters

September 12th is very special day. Every year, reliably, something big happens on that day. This year is no different. The new Apple iPhone will launch on September 12th. Hillary Clinton’s book, What Happened, hits bookstores, NASA is launching its Expedition 53 Launch Mission on September 12th. And it’s even National Milk Shake Day.

Why do marketers and brand managers embrace September 12th? It’s a day that marks the start of the fall season — full of hope and promise as the weather begins to change and kids return to school.

But that’s not the real reason. September 12th means that we can put September 11th in the rear-view mirror for another year.

Every year, I find I need to write about 9/11. September 11th is no longer a “current event”. But it’s not yet history, either; that will come with time.

But each year, in the days leading up to 9/11, I find myself asking people, both friends and strangers “where were you on 9/11?” The question seems more relevant, more urgent, as we find ourselves asking some very painful questions about our American democracy. What are we fighting for and who is a "real" American?

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So here’s my story.

On September 11th, I was on my company's roof deck, looking downtown at the smoke and flames. Firemen, police officers, and ambulance drivers, all acted with selfless bravery that defies explanation. I’m forever humbled by their unflinching efforts to save people in those terminally wounded towers.

I’m a documentary filmmaker. And for me — almost without a moment’s hesitation — I knew what I had to do. I had to capture, to document what was happening in my city. 

Historians have the benefit of time to look at evidence, piece together facts, and find truth in the details. On 9/11 we had no such luxury — we had to record the images, stories, and details, or risk them being lost. 

The week after the attacks, people were numb. The images of the towers being hit, burning and falling were seared in our minds. And as the city mourned and began to think about recovery, I found myself trying to contribute with the tools and skills I had. I had a story to tell. So, I made a film.The film was titled “7 Days in September.” 

In the weeks after 9/11, New York proved itself to be a truly global community. Faces and voices came together. The site clean-up began. An open call for memorial concepts found a young Israeli architect named Michael Arad. His beautiful and meditative design, “Reflecting Absence,” was selected to memorialize the 2,983 individuals that died in the attacks. 

But of those almost 3,000 names, how many would today be considered Americans? How many would today have their name etched in bronze around the one-acre memorial pools, as we close our borders and consider replacing our golden door with an impenetrable wall? More than 100 undocumented immigrants — delivery men, waiters, cleaners, cooks — killed by terrorists at the World Trade Center 16 years ago could have been condemned to eternal anonymity if not for the efforts of an immigrant community group. Dozens of volunteers answered phones and accompanied the relatives on grim pilgrimages to city hospitals and morgues, according to Joel Magallán, a former Jesuit brother from Mexico who is Asociación Tepeyac executive director. “It was an intense job, there was no time even to cry” said Magallán.

Another 372 foreign nationals — just over 12% of the total number of deaths — perished in the attacks.

As we approach another September 11th, we’ll think about the towers, and those who perished, and the pride with which we focused on protecting our shared American values and the remarkable collection of immigrants from around the world that came here to build this country.

On September 12th we’ll buy iPhones, and dive headfirst into the politics that has put the very nature of our democracy and our nation up for a daily referendum. No doubt you’ve got feelings about this. Even as 9/11 comes, and then recedes, it may be that this year 9/11 is a good day to think about the diversity of our collective cities and towns — and do our part to support the essence of what has made this nation great. 


America is a nation of immigrants, and 9/11 can serve to remind us of that, even as we remember and memorialize those that we have lost.
4 comments about "Why September 12th Matters".
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  1. Michael Margolies from Michael Margolies Photography & Design, August 29, 2017 at 12:47 p.m.

    It is a personal irritation every time people exaggerate facts even minor ones to set a mood or promote an idea. The totally unimportant but still wrong little details to set a stage of deceit or prop up a political agenda.

    You mention kids going back to school in mid Sept. Most of the nation today starts school in August, some even in July. For my kids even back to 9/11 would have been in school for 5 weeks already. Yeah its a minor thing but it tells me your either not really into facts or too far removed from them to bother getting them right, those facts add to my next comment. 

    People who are willing to ignore, twist or manipulate the facts add to the disintegration of our national discord, adding to our inability to have civil disagreements, it even adds to dehumanizing those we pretend are wrong therefore somehow less than those we agree with.

    No one except the far left had or has any issue with the immigrants, illegal or otherwise yet you choose to make it an issue and add to the tension and racial divide. It seems to me the mess from the fired up alt-right hate groups was brought to us at the hands of the liberal media who drove weak people into their arms.

    Always pressing to turn ordinary situations and people into something darker, as if they are to be feared and are some kind of terrorist is self fulfilling. The Liberal left and liberal media created the situation that attracted people to these hate groups.

    Yeah they are terrible, but its high time the left takes responsibility for creating it. Just as the left likes to blame every action of a conservative for creating and adding to the fire that emboldens terrorist recruiting, your rhetoric has added to the recruiting of hate groups, racists, and neo-nazis. The more you antagonize and vilify ordinary people the more you drive them to join groups where they think they find safety. 

    What does that have to do with my first point? Small twists of the truth, suppositions as stated facts, misleading comments that tear down and influence small minded people to think they are true all undermine our nation.

    When you create fear, hate and prejudice, when you continually create an atmosphere of racial divide, victimhood and a need to find offense around every corner you also create the situations that do not bring unity, understanding, or compassion. You hate and are met with hate. You create victims but that requires villains to be created too. You foster fear when you, manipulate and condemn on fake pretenses of violations that never happened like the one above.

    Subtle back-handed accusations implying that some people would have marginalized, hid or diminished the fact that some foreign nationals were also involved in 9/11 is dishonest and manipulative as it never happened. Creating a scenario where it could have even though it did not, implying that some injustice could have but never did fo

  2. Brian Shepherd from The 31 Group replied, August 30, 2017 at 12:21 p.m.

    Michael, I want to respond only to the issue you bring up about when children start school.  And I'm not interested in a debate, since when kids start school isn't really of marketing/media relevance, but I'm only responding because I think your comment is a little unfair.  In the Northeast, the traditional first day of school going back 10+ years was the Tuesday after Labor Day.  In 2001, Labor Day was on September 3, thus for many, the first day back to school was September 4, 2001.  So, most kids would have only been in school for 5 days on that terrible day.  It's only been recently that public schools in the Northeast have conducted their first day of school the week prior to Labor Day (for mine, the first day was yesterday 8/30).  Even if the dates don't matter, Steven seemed to actually say "going back to school" which to me suggested that week or two of adjustements and getting back into school rountines.  And we surely see Marketers doing "back to school" sales well into late September as many kids didn't get their list of needed supplies until the first day of school (now, it's more common to send that list as summer closes).  Again, I don't care to debate the contents of his story, or your issue with them, especially as it pertains to immigration.  But I did feel the need to point out and defend the back to school comment.

  3. Michael Margolies from Michael Margolies Photography & Design, August 30, 2017 at 12:51 p.m.

    Brian, thanks for your comment, I grew up in the west and we too started school on the first day after labor day. Sadly that is no longer the case. I have one grandchild who started school July 1st this year. I was dumbfounded at that. But I guess her area in the Midwest knew that and marketing for back to school started in June there. Where I live it Started the 1st of July (back to school advertsing) and shcool started Aug.1st for most of the area.

  4. Steve Rosenbaum from NYC Media Lab replied, August 31, 2017 at 8:49 a.m.

    Michael - I think Brian's response reflects my experience. September 11th was my son's first day of school, and so that's what I remember most vividly. In terms of your suggestion that article reflected "back-handed accusations implying that some people would have marginalized" - there to I must apologize. It wasn't my intention to be subtle. Rather, I think 9/11 offers American's the opportunity to both look back and look forward. What did the terrorists mean to achieve by flying planes into the Twin Towers - and what can we do as a nation to protect our nation from those intentions? Hope that clarifies. 

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