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For many Americans, Sept. 11 will always be a solemn day.
The anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center is a reflective time, the chance to remember the nearly 3,000 lives lost and observe how much the world has changed since three planes crashed into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, and one into an empty field in Pennsylvania.
Then there’s President Donald Trump.
Trump’s in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where Flight 93 went down, doing… this:
Behold, one of Trump’s favorite poses, fists raised in triumph, mouth contorted like a preteen boy mimicking a fart noise, as he and the First Lady walk across the tarmac for a memorial service.
It’s an ugly pose for the occasion. As Trump walks toward the cameras, away from his wife, he looks more like he’s walking onstage for one of his rallies. Like he’s in his very own universe, one in which this event, like every other event, is about him.
Which it is. On the anniversary, Trump began the day by tweeting about one of his lawyers.
Rudy Giuliani did a GREAT job as Mayor of NYC during the period of September 11th. His leadership, bravery and skill must never be forgotten. Rudy is a TRUE WARRIOR!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 11, 2018
Today’s anniversary is a complicated one. For thousands of people, it represents the day that they lost a loved one or a friend. For others, it’s a galvanizing day, when America showed the world what we’re made of. For some of us, it was the day the rest of the world rushed onto our doorsteps, messier and stranger than we realized, ineluctably changed and certainly beyond our control.
For Trump, it will be the day he got the tallest building in New York.
Sept. 11 ushered in a new wave of nationalism, one that would dramatically alter our foreign policy, devastate the Middle East, and give rise to widespread Islamophobia. And it eventually ended with Trump as our president.
And today he did this:
17 years since September 11th!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 11, 2018
Somehow, he managed to sandwich in several tweets about the Russia investigation too while honoring the victims today.
New Strzok-Page texts reveal “Media Leak Strategy.” @FoxNews So terrible, and NOTHING is being done at DOJ or FBI - but the world is watching, and they get it completely.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 11, 2018
Five years ago (granted, before he was our president, but still), we got this:
“@realDonaldTrump: I would like to extend my best wishes to all, even the haters and losers, on this special date, September 11th.”— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 12, 2013
Trump apparently deleted the original, infamous tweet, but forgot to do the same for the quote tweet. So once again, we have a big, complex, devastating, ugly, unimaginable, strange event described vaguely as “special,” like a birthday or an anniversary. “Best wishes,” he says, even to all the “haters and losers” out there, his haters, losers over which he’s triumphed.
Whatever today is, it is not victorious. It’s not a vague, bland “special” day.
Like it or not, September 11, 2001, was one of America’s defining moments, maybe the defining moment, not just domestically, but abroad, too.
Seventeen years out, it would be nice to have a leader who walked beside us, instead of in his own orbit, as we keep trying to make sense of it.
Ellen Ioanes is the FOIA reporter at the Daily Dot, where she covers U.S. politics. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School, and her work has appeared in the Guardian, the Center for Public Integrity, HuffPost India, and more.