Welcome to Sunday morning, every newspaper fan’s biggest day. The morning stretches before you, with thousands and thousands of words to choose from. Here are the two that arrived at my house this week:
As you can see, the Freep took its 9/11 package pretty seriously. They’re doing this more often of late — making a magazine-style front page, with only one story, rather than the traditional layout. And for a day like Sunday, lots of papers did the same.
I gotta say, this photoillustration didn’t do much for me. Of the thousands of images to choose from — and you can see the other newspaper, above, for some lovely ones — they dig up the same old greatest hits and screen them over a flag, but OK, artistic choice, whatever. And as it turns out, the illustration is a perfect match for the copy. Anyone? Anyone?
How could we have possibly expected anything else? I knew you-know-who would have something to say about it; in the clever words of one of you on my Facebook page (Baldheaded Dork, I think), Mitch made his bones as the Grim Reaper’s toastmaster, and this was a very big banquet. But there were other people involved in this decision, to make this the most prominent story in the paper, to back it with the judgment of a dozen editors. Someone, many someones, read this and said, “Yep, this is what our readers want.”
I said the illustration perfectly captured the story. Mitch Albom’s column was a virtual cliché salad with a side of mush, served up with his standard tricks, italics, repetition and those dumb, one-sentence paragraphs he loves so much.
And like this:
They are dead. He is dead. We are alive. We are changed.
They are dead.
You wish this anniversary could change that. You wish 10 years was some sort of MAGIC release date, that the murdered souls of Sept. 11 could return, their suffering ended, their incinerated bodies recreated from the dusty air of lower Manhattan and the rubble of the Pentagon and the muddy earth of a Pennsylvania field, allowed to pick up their lives wherever they were headed that morning, to the office, to the subway, to breakfast, to another city.
They are dead. That will never happen. Their children are teenagers now. Their teens are adults. They exist only in memories, in family stories, in photo albums and attic boxes and troubled dreams.
No roll call today will bring them back — not even one read by presidents and governors. No etching of their names in a memorial will re-animate them. They stand as the fallen.
What the hell is he talking about? I wish an anniversary could bring the dead to life? Sure, why not? I also wish I had a dog that didn’t poop or pee. I wish I had a money tree in my yard. I wish Ashley didn’t die. I wish I had some all-caps MAGIC I could call on, but most of all, I wish I had Mitch Albom’s job, which is to churn his MAGIC pot of hackneyed usage and faux-profundity once a week in the op-ed section of what was once a respected newspaper and is now just another heat ‘n’ serve from the Gannett kitchen.
I love some of these clauses — not even a roll call “read by presidents and governors” will bring them back. A better hack would have stopped at presidents. It’s the “and governors” that gives the line its comedy.
It so happens that all the columnists were called upon to contribute something, and no one, even the good ones, hit anything out of the park. But Mitch pegged the needle on the Smarm-o-Meter, once again, by observing that yes, yes, we have changed, and yet, life and love does, and always will, go on.
Because we weren’t sure about that before. You know, there was an attack on American soil, and maybe all life would have stopped, and taken the love with it.
This guy is paid $250,000 a year by the Freep, I’m told. For that sum, he is apparently not required to make a phone call to one of the dozens of smart people, many of them clergy, who would pick up for him, who might have offered a new perspective or original observation about this tragedy. He’s not required to say something that hasn’t been said a thousand times. He just phones this shit in, and collects the check.
It wouldn’t be so bad if this nonsense were confined to Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day and other more fitting holidays. But this was a profound national tragedy, and this is what he comes up with. I ask you.
Compare what he said with this brief passage from Bill Clinton’s speech at Shanksville, Pa. this weekend. That’s how you speak a simple message from the heart, people.
For a palate cleanser, I suggest you read Michael Heaton’s account of covering the story as a working reporter. Might be a little inside baseball for you civilians, but I enjoyed it. The hardhat gambit! Genius.
Or, you could read the final, definitive apology of the guy who started the “tourist guy” Photoshop hoax. He’s Hungarian, a nation that our own Alex often informs us has a distinct sense of humor. Let’s invade them, and fix that.
Since we were talking about it last week, whaddya know — a piece on graphing calculators.
This I present without comment.
And with that, I should wrap up and move out.