The old adage about forgetting what people say but not how they make you feel usually holds true, except maybe in the case of Sept. 11, 2001. If you’re old (or young) enough to remember the tidal wave of explicit panic, hopelessness, helplessness and anguish from 18 years ago today, chances are strong that also seared in your memory is the valor, goodness and light that sprouted up from the flames, debris, cracks, interminable holes and splintered hearts.
It’s not as if any one event or date on the calendar — Sept. 11 or otherwise — magically guarantees an articulate, warm or inspiring version of President Donald Trump. Still, someone may have told him that summoning “the leaders of a rugged militant organization deemed terrorists by the United States (to) be hosted in the mountain getaway used for presidents, prime ministers and kings just three days before the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that led to the Afghan war,” according to The New York Times, would not rank among this brightest moves.
But that’s not all. After news broke Saturday that the Camp David meeting fell through with the group that harbored 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden, the next evening Trump, while apparently watching an MSNBC special on criminal justice reform, began rage tweeting at Oscar winner John Legend and model Chrissy Teigen for generally failing to acknowledge his signature on a related piece of legislation. He followed that up Monday by announcing the Bahamian survivors of Hurricane Dorian attempting to escape the devastation to the United States would need to be carefully vetted, warning of the “very bad people” among them.
“Everyone needs totally proper documentation,” he told reporters, since “the Bahamas has some tremendous problems with people going to the Bahamas that weren’t supposed to be there.”
(Thankfully that shouldn’t be a problem, because if there’s one thing people in life-or-death hurricanes do before seeking any port in a deadly storm, it’s ensure they have the official paperwork that declares them not rapists and drug dealers — or, you know, Mexicans.)
Then yesterday, while lay leaders, politicians and news organizations began their annual solemn look back on the tales of tragedy, heroism and bravery from Ground Zero, the Pentagon and Pennsylvania, Trump started off the morning by firing a shot at the media via Twitter:
“One of the greatest and most powerful weapons used by the Fake and Corrupt News Media is the phony Polling Information they put out. Many of these polls are fixed, or worked in such a way that a certain candidate will look good or bad. Internal polling looks great, the best ever!”
The gratifying news is that whatever Trump says or does today will be forgotten almost as soon as he says and does it (please, God). His rampant narcissism and serial insensitivity while flashing his spurious smile and tasteless thumbs up as he keeps a vapid distance between himself and, say, some first responders, 9/11 widows and widowers, and the children who never got to know their parents who perished on this date — will fortunately be lost to more profound moments of reflection and remembrance.
The 18th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks may not smart as acutely as in the hours, days and weeks that immediately followed. Enough time has passed that there are those who even remember the day more for the mercy and humanity that it spurred, rather than the actual death and destruction it caused. Either way, we can count on a new Trump tantrum, tirade or other tomfoolery to inevitably move the focus from his disrespect for the solemnity of this occasion to his mishandling of yet another one (copy and paste, ad infinitum).
But while what Trump says and did over the past few days will ultimately be disregarded, including firing the national security adviser on the day before the anniversary of the least secure day in American history, the culmination of what he’s done, including the monumentally sickening emotions he evoked by inviting the Taliban to Camp David, which the New York Times calls the “crown jewel of the American presidency,” will be harder to shake. What happened 18 years ago can’t be changed, but what’s happening now can be — on Nov. 3, 2020.
Follow Meredith Carroll on Twitter @MCCarroll. More at MeredithCarroll.com.