Occasion best marked with quiet resolve

Americans never do anything halfway. Including, it seems, grieving.

If it demonstrates nothing else, this past week’s national orgy of public mourning offers vivid proof of our limitless appetite for tasteless spectacle. At the persistent urging of nearly every television, radio and syndicated newspaper commmentator, we seem determined to wrench every last emotion from the occasion, building up to a climax today, the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. And we’re made to feel guilty if we’re unable to share our grief on cue with Katie Couric and the rest of the viewing audience.

Certainly the events of Sept. 11 warrant our rememberance. The question is, what kind of commemorative expression is most fitting? Probably no one unconcerned with ratings points or their own standing with the voters would have suggested the majority of what we’ve witnessed in the last week as an answer to that question.

By all accounts, the country noted the first anniversary of the episode in its history most similar to this one — the Japanese invasion of Pearl Harbor — in a more restrained, purposeful fashion. In those days, of course, there was no Internet or 24-hour-a-day cable television coverage.

More importantly, one year after Dec. 7 Americans were up to their ears in World War II and, for the most part, far too busy expressing their feelings about the attack with substance to get caught up in meaningless symbolism.

If there is an appropriate response, one year after Sept. 11, we believe a single moment of quiet, personal reflection and the recognition that we are still at war with forces that would seek to destroy us mean infinitely more than a week’s worth of blow-dried anchormen and preening politicians.

Rather than putting our empathy and emotions on public display, let’s simply mark the occasion by remembering how outraged we were one year ago today and vowing to make whatever sacrifices it takes to assure we never have to feel that way again.

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