- Exploring (Un)Common Ground Ten Years after 9/11
A flurry of events, ceremonies, and remembrance programs marked the tenth anniversary this September of the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center on 11 September 2001. In the United States, thousands of New Yorkers joined hands in Lower Manhattan; the New York City Fire Museum held a memorial service; an official observance took place at the World Trade Center memorial site; the crash of Flight 93 was commemorated in Shanksville, Pennsylvania; and President Barack Obama remembered casualties at the Washington National Cathedral's Concert of Hope in a speech during which he remarked on the unchanging character of the United States and the durability of democracy. Other world leaders, including President Benigno Aquino of the Philippines and President Lee Myung-bak of South Korea, expressed their condolences and stressed the importance of cross-cultural dialogue and anti-terrorist initiatives. Schoolchildren held a vigil in Amritsar, India, and in Puri, India, sand artist Sudarshan Pattnaik created an impressive sand sculpture of the World Trade Center. A firefighter in Christchurch, New Zealand, stood in a bucket suspended over a memorial constructed out of the same steel that once supported the World Trade Center; and a tribute in Gander, Newfoundland, to which thirty-eight planes were diverted after the attacks, served as a reminder of Canada's hospitable role in the aftermath of 9/11. Meanwhile, a memorial service held by the Ontario Paramedic Pipes and Drums band in Toronto and a Concert of Hope held at the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa served as reminders of Canada's willingness to identify and sympathize with its closest neighbour, the United States.
Indeed, the remembrance of 9/11 in Canada has sparked a regeneration of iconography around transnational identification. For example, the CTV News tenth-anniversary photo gallery, entitled "Canada [End Page 1] Reacts to the 9-11 Attacks," opens with the image of the American and Canadian flags flying side by side at a ceremony that took place in Ottawa on 14 September 2001 and includes, among others, images of Canadians standing outside of a Toronto store selling televisions, the reflection of 9/11 news coverage on their bodies; Red Cross volunteers at Exhibition Park in Halifax preparing beds for airline passengers whose flights were diverted as a result of the attacks; and a notice of the closing of the United States Consulate in Quebec City to the public on 11 September 2011.
These peaceable images of cross-border empathy are nevertheless subtly interrupted by an image, also included in the CTV gallery, of three thousand demonstrators at the Vancouver Art Gallery protesting the impending "War against Terror" on 23 September 2001. One demonstrator's placard—which reads "Don't follow the terrorist script!"—disrupts what is otherwise a reassuring flow of images that underscores the proximity of the United States to Canada and the status of 9/11 as a global, and therefore intensely transnational, tragedy. The inclusion of this image in the CTV gallery might be said to expose, whether consciously or not, what critic Jill Bennett has called "the limits of empathy" (178). Without a doubt, the majority of images in the gallery focus on the immediacy and proximity of 9/11—its happening in a space and time not far removed from Canada and its forceful disruption of the ordinary lives of Canadians—to highlight solidarity as opposed to dissent. At the same time, as the early demonstration in Vancouver and the use of Canada as a refuge by some American soldiers who defected from the United States-led "War against Terror" in the wake of 9/11 attest, there are limits to transnational identification. [End Page 2]
How the rapid politicization of 9/11 has impacted transnational identification can also be witnessed in the disparate ways in which young people have been integrated into post-9/11 discourses around nationalism and multiculturalism in Canada and the United States. One Canadian example that made national headlines is the Toronto District School Board's curriculum on the terrorist attacks on the United States. In "How Do You Teach 9/11 to School...