On September 11, 2001, terrorists made their fateful and fatal attack on the United States, using commercial airplanes as bombs to destroy New York City's Twin Towers. The days and weeks after these events were surreal at times, filled with anguish, disbelief, astonishment, sadness, outrage, and anxiety. This act of terrorism against the nation was an awesome spectacle of death and destruction, but also led Americans to find new and innovative ways to memorialize and celebrate their dead. Public displays of communal mourning, sometimes officially organized, sometimes more spontaneous expressions of collective loss, often brought large groups of people together across class, gender, religious, and racial lines. In all cases, these can be considered public forms of civil religious community united in grief. By that very unity, communities were able to transcend the sad, terrible circumstances of their individual deaths. Some media outlets covered the reaction of local funeral directors in the days after the horrible events, the very people normally charged with managing the body's temporary presence after death and before it vanishes.
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