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Catherine Ventura Headshot

On 9/11 There Were No Status Updates

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On September 11 there were no status updates and no 9/11 sales promotions.

No one woke up in September of 2001 and checked their Facebook notifications. There was no Facebook (created in 2004), no Twitter (created in 2006), and remarkably, no YouTube (created in 2005). Even texting was rare.

On the morning of September 11, I got the news via a telephone call -- the first of many because I was uptown and hadn't lost service like so many downtown. That call was from my sister, urging me to turn on my TV. I started with the radio because my son was watching cartoons on a VHS tape and, as I heard the first screams of callers describing what they were seeing, everything shifted.

I spent that day safely uptown, watching television, listening to the radio, to the brave reporters and New Yorkers live-reporting from downtown, and sharing "status updates" by phone. Misinformation flew, the same way it does on the internet, and was corrected, the same way it is on the internet.

It so many, many ways it was a different world before "social media" and the people I was able to reach by phone, and the people who came to my house to watch TV with me, are indelibly linked to all the other vivid, vivid memories of that day. There were fewer trolls back then -- people who use the anonymity of blog responses or made-up Twitter names to mercilessly attack others verbally. And for a while, people were incredibly respectful.

Then, a few months later, Kenneth Cole published a tasteless full-page ad in the New York Times of a model splayed across a table eating a strawberry with a copy line that referenced September 11. I called Kenneth Cole's office, deeply offended, and spoke to a representative. The representative said he didn't see anything wrong with it and that "mine was the only call they had gotten so far."

This year's #EpicFail belongs to a hapless golf course in Wisconsin that had the very poor idea of creating a "12th Anniversary 9-11 Promotion" with rounds of golf costing $9.11. The internets got wind of it and they got many, many calls... and tweets, and articles in major papers and websites, and posts expressing outrage on their own Facebook page.

The company -- ironically named Tumbledown Trails -- has been very forthcoming in their public apologies (unlike Kenneth Cole) and adamant that they meant it respectfully. And perhaps they even did and they just have incredibly poor taste. But it's ironic that they have been so swamped with social media attacks, and even death threats, that they were considering closing for the day for safety concerns.

Death threats and internet attacks are an even worse way than golf deals to commemorate September 11 and, frankly, I suspect few of them came from New Yorkers or Washingtonians. My experience has been that 9/11 made New Yorkers value life and value each other more.

So in a country that now equates Veterans Day and Memorial Day with sales and picnics, perhaps it's inevitable that "Never Forget" will fade eventually too and that the Kenneth Coles and hapless marketing interns of the world will be free to invent new advertising opportunities. And that eventually the internet -- or whatever replaces it -- won't even take notice.

But in the spirit of the day I plan to stop judging and I wish the folks at Tumbledown Trails a peaceful day and a peaceful world.