This TPM post will

September 14, 2001 8:31 a.m.

This TPM post will likely be more undirected or
unfocused than usual. Let me try to get out a few thoughts, though.

First are the video feeds (now wall-to-wall on the cable nets) of these
family members with hastily pasted together xeroxes
of their loved ones
— a picture, a name, a few vital measurements —
straining to get these images in front of TV cameras to spread the word —
and always with the word “missing.”

I must say this was more than I could take. I don’t mean that this as
the accustomed phrase or as a euphemism. I mean it was more than I could
take. Partly out of personal concern and also because I now have to write
about this awfulness, I have like many of you been watching this coverage
almost non-stop since Tuesday morning. But these images were too much. I
found myself repeatedly, literally, lurching to grab my remote control and
turning the television off.

What is it about these images? I guess it’s the pure desperation of
these people. And their human and terribly understandable unwillingness to
come to fully recognize that desperation. It’s their denial. There is just
something (and I mean this in the most sympathetic sense of the
) pitiful about them, for those of us who are at least insulated
from immediate personal loss in this case can immediately recognize that
these people are “missing” only in the most grave and technical sense.
They’re dead. They’re all dead.

Certainly there will be a few miraculous stories with grieving families
who find a relative is one of the few John or Jane Does in a New York
hospital. But only a very, very few.

And it’s this denial, this desperation that just makes this stuff so
unbearable because it is a pain beyond grieving. When you see families in
full grief you have the sense that they have at least passed a first
threshold, and in some unfathomable sense their grief has begun to find
its way into graspable proportions. But these family members with these
pictures have … well it’s just too much to describe. Hope against hope,
at a certain point, becomes too searingly painful to watch, because the
disconnect between the glimmer of hope and the inevitable grief is just
too dissonant. And the presence of false hope just makes the true
hopelessness more difficult to defeat or overcome.

For us, the rest of us, all these pictures just bring the awfulness of
this to life in a way that goes completely beyond the numbers. And there
are so, so many. They overwhelm you in the watching.

I thought I’d be less fatigued than it turns out I am. So the rest will
come later this morning. Next up, the international reaction. And a few
comments from politicians that make you wonder.

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