Has anyone lined up the brass bands and Osama look-alikes for the fifth anniversary of 9/11?

It’s probably just me, but does anyone else have a problem with the festivities underway in San Francisco to "observe" the 100th anniversary of the "Great Quake"?

The morning shows were chock-a-block today with marching bands, jazz ensembles and other Sf_earthquake_1 performers cavorting in the background as San Francisco Mayor Newsom held one interview after another, grinning from ear to ear as he described the various events being held in the City by the Bay. The New York Times says the hoopla is the brainchild of Charlotte Mailliard Shultz, chief of protocol for the City of San Francisco and the State of California, and says she’s the one responsible for "…striking the right tone" for the anniversary.

In addition to a reunion of survivors, all of whom were too young to recall anything about the quake, the City held a massive ball at the Palace Hotel that apparently included people dressed in period costumers and Enrico Caruso look-alikes (btw, talk about a tough way to earn a buck! Aside from Quake re-enactment events, there can’t be too much demand for Caruso look-alikes nowadays). In addition to the galas, there’s also been some cool computer simulation footage that shows how SF would fare if a similar quake should rattle the city today.

All of this obviously makes for great media buzz, since newscasters revel in tragedy. It’s also probably doing wonders for San Fran’s tourist trade, but what about the 3,000 poor souls who lost their lives in the 1906 disaster? It seems to me that, in their rush to create a media feeding frenzy, the fine folks from Frisco have badly mistreated the memories of the victims and their families.

On the other hand, Ms. Shultz, the protocol chief responsible for today’s festivities, has accumulated some serious marketing and special event credentials in the process. Just imagine the kind of kick-ass business model she could develop if she turned her attention to the plethora of other mega tragedies from the archives of U.S. History.

If I were Ms. Shultz, I’d start a special events company specializing in "commemorating" horrific events from yesteryear. I’d name my firm "Blast from the past" and take it on the road. Just imagine the year-round business: there’s the great Galveston hurricane and flood that killed more than twice the number of people who died in the SF quake. Or, how about the great Chicago fire? What about special events to trivialize the Challenger disaster? Major plane crashes? Hurricane Katrina? Or, of course, the mother of all disasters, 9/11?

My point is that I think San Francisco went overboard in its 100th anniversary and, from an image and reputation standpoint, set a bad precedent. It’s critically important to remember and mark these events, to learn from them and to try to do everything possible to ensure they don’t happen again. But brass bands, parades and Caruso look-alikes are just too far over the (fault) line for me.

13 thoughts on “Has anyone lined up the brass bands and Osama look-alikes for the fifth anniversary of 9/11?

  1. Exec Guy: You don’t know RepMan very well, do you? He is too secure to want to be surrounded by Yes-men (or women.) Indeed he and his partner, Ed Moed, have built Peppercom into what it is today- Small Agency of the Year (PRWeek) and Most Innovative Agency of the Year (Holmes Report)- by championing independent and creative thinking. Clearly that is not an atmosphere with which you are familiar.

  2. That’s fine, Ellen. But, I think Enrico Caruso lookalikes and brass bands are a bit much. Celebrate all you like and revel in the rich offerings of your city. But, in my mind, it’s stil a bald-faced attempt to cash in on the deaths of 3,000 souls and drive tourism. Tell you what, let’s pick this up again when you guys celebrate the 125th anniversary of the quake. One can only imagine the interactive light shows and pyrotechnics that will be rolled out for that one. Maybe there will even be a bunch of Enrico Caruso holograms greetings tourists as they depart from their planes?

  3. Gotta say, as a resident of the Bay Area for 9 years now, I agree with Dandy and Ann. We are not celebrating disaster. We are celebrating the fact that this great city is more glorious than ever. The 1906 Earthquake – and earthquakes in general – are part of Bay Area culture. We are tough, we are resilient, we are iconoclastic and we like living on the edge. We are a city rich in history and poised for the future.
    That said, most of the media coverage I’ve seen has been pretty gloom and doom — The focus is not on celebrataing but on the next big one and we better get ready.
    And, while comparisons to the Great Quake and 9/11 are absurd (comparing a 100-year old natural disaster to a recent terrorist attack?), Dandy’s not the only one comparing the 1906 Earthquake and Hurricane Katrina

  4. Hey RepMan,
    I have to say that, as a new resident of the Bay Area, I was initially not only mystified but a little horrified at the thought of celebrating such a tragic event. I now understand that what people are celebrating is what Dandy described and the ability to literally rise from the ashes to recreate a thriving and beautiful city.
    Is it the height of irony and outrage that 100 years later the country is not tremendously better prepared? Yes. Are the media and politicians exploiting the commemoration for their own purposes? You bet. But the people who live and work in SF are proud of what they’ve created here after such destruction, and I don’t blame them.

  5. Dandy and Rep-
    I don’t really want to side one way or another b/c this seems like a slam dunk. But Dandy, ever hear the old saying about biting the hand that feeds you?

  6. RepMan, RepMan, RepMan. Yes, Scarlett married Hamilton to make that dopey Ashley jealous, and but she was not celebrating his death. With Hamilton dead she had no way to make Ashley jealous. Point is she was moving forward and was not paralized by the past. And come on, you are as big a capitalist as the rest of us.

  7. Damdy, Dandy, Dandy. Scarlet got married for one reason: to make Ashley Wilkes jealous. She was relieved her husband had been killed in the Civil War and couldn’t wait to go to the ball and celebrate. And, Rhett Butler saw right through her ruse. Taking advantage of death and destruction is wrong, whether it’s in pure fiction like “Gone with the wind” or in fact, like what’s going down in SF.

  8. RepMan, there is a difference between trivializing death and refusing to get on with life. Scarlet O’Hara danced in Atlanta wearing widow’s black and it was the healthiest thing she could do for herself, and a war-ravaged society. She was not celebrating her husband’s death she was getting on with life.

  9. I think some of the elements of this “memorial” are not only nauseating. They’re trivializing the deaths of 3,000 people and using a horrific event to atrract toruism dollars. To some up, Dandy, are you advocating a Las Vegas lounge act perform at the 9/11 fifth anniversary?

  10. Your speculation on my behavior had I a relative who died in ’06 is not correct and I won’t waste time explaining. But I do take strong issue with your insistence that it is wrong for a community to capitablize on it’s past. They are not championing tragedy. They are embracing their history and promoting commerce and tourism. Should NY shut down Ellis Island? Should we use the footprint of the World Trade Center as a landfill?

  11. Dandy: I have to believe you’d feel a little bit differently if one of your family had died in the ’06 earthquake. And, you can’t equate the White House/FEMA near total lack of response to Katrina warnings to the City of SF capitalizing on a tragedy to attract tourist dollars. You’re talking apples and oranges.

  12. They are not glorifying a tragedy or celebrating a disaster. They are reveling in the resiliency of the human spirit and the ability to overcome tragedy and disaster and rise above daunting odds against success and rebirth. As far as the “if vs. when” issue, it is unequivocally “when.” Interesting that so many were chastised (nearly strung up!) for not paying heed to the certain calamity of a hurricane hitting New Orleans, yet those who are addressing the inevitable next quake in San Francisco are being accused of grandstanding. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t, huh?

  13. Very bizarre…I agree…not to mention that on the news last night they talked about the fact that San Fran will have another huge quake…it wasn’t a “what if” statement but rather a “when” statement. Unbelievable that they’re turning tragedy into a “celebration.” I blame the media as well for covering it.