It's too soon to make money off of tragedy

Sherri L. Shaulis, editor at The Press Tribune, wrote the following about the commercialization of 911.

Update: Another article at News.com wrote about their distaste for the National Collectors Mint’s coin.

[Today marks] five years since the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001. Not a long time in the grand scheme of things, but it can feel like another lifetime ago.

Most people can recall exactly where they were when they got the news that a second plane had crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City. It was at that moment Americans realized it was no coincidence. Then a third plane skimmed over Arlington Cemetery and slammed into the Pentagon. A fourth plane, which we later learned had been hijacked and headed for Washington, D.C., crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pa., about 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.

As quickly as Americans realized we were under attack, it was over. The days, weeks and months that followed were a time for grieving and rebuilding. Slowly but surely, we learned it was OK to laugh again, to enjoy things like sporting events and concerts, to be ourselves.

But for as much as things seem to have gotten back to normal, 911 is still a touchy subject. Much like the last time American soil was dramatically attacked - Dec. 7, 1941 - it will takes years, if not decades, for us to fully recover, if we ever do.

Which is why I found it so disturbing while I watched TV a few nights ago. A commercial came on to hawk a product that made me physically ill. According to the 60-second spot, the National Collector’s Mint has produced a “World Trade Center Gold and Silver Clad Commemorative Coin.”

I still can’t believe what I saw. The announcer described the coin as “truly unique, created using two distinct struck pieces. First, the base is struck with gleaming buildings on a frosted background. Then the inset of the Twin Towers is magnificently engraved and fitted into the skyline on the face of the commemorative with jeweler precision, able to rise up into a breathtaking standing sculpture. The effect is dazzling - it is literally transformed into a standing sculpture of the Twin Towers!”

But wait, there’s more.

The “collector’s item” features “.999 pure silver recovered from Ground Zero!” There’s also an eagle on the back of the coin, surrounded by five stars: one to mark every year since 911.

And for only $29.95, you too can own the coin that features the “luminous New York City skyline featuring the magnificent Twin Towers (gleaming) against a frosted background, much as they shimmered in the sunlight that fateful September morning.”

Oh, but the best part is that $5 of every coin sold will be donated to “official” 911 charities and memorials. Conveniently, the announcer never mentions what “official” organizations those might be.

In the past several months, I’ve gotten used to the idea that individuals and organizations would be capitalizing on the five-year anniversary. It just amazes me how much we as Americans are willing to let slide by.

After Pearl Harbor, it took Hollywood almost 30 years to make a feature film about the attack - “Tora! Tora! Tora!” wasn’t released until 1970. These days, Hollywood can’t seem to crank out enough movies about the events and people of 911. “World Trade Center,” “United 93” and “Flight 93” have all been released in recent months. You can bet if they are all a commercial success, there will be plenty more to come.

I remember in the days after 911 thinking it would only be a matter of time until people really started trying to make a buck or two off the tragedy. I wondered how long it would take until Americans collectively accepted it was OK for that to happen, and give it the old, “Eh, what are you going to do about it?” response.

I guess five years is the magic number.

(via The Press Tribune)

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