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The After Words

How newsmakers and entertainers grappled with the tragedy of September 11

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The repercussions from the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks will resonate for years to come. But even in the tender three months following the tragedy, we were forced to reevaluate everything from the life expectancy of irony to the future of action movies to the concept of celebrity telethons (who knew they could be positively pitch-perfect?). What follows is a sampling of voices from the entertainment industry that emerged from the post-9/11 tumult, all trying to make sense of a senseless act and a deeply changed world.

”There’s going to be a seismic change. I think it’s the end of

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”There’s going to be a seismic change. I think it’s the end of the age of irony. Things that were considered fringe and frivolous are going to disappear.” — Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter

”How have we spent the past two weeks? 1. Crying 2. Staring at hands 3. Feeling guilty about renting video 4. Calling loved one 5. Thinking about donating blood 6. Watching TV for nine hours, finally getting up, going to corner store for Cheez Doodles, eating Cheez Doodles, realizing Cheez Doodles aren’t helping, throwing Cheez Doodles away.” — The Onion

”We all feel the need to do something. Those of us here tonight are not heroes. We are not healers, nor protectors of this great nation. We are merely artists and entertainers here to raise spirits and, we hope, a great deal of money.” — Tom Hanks, America: A Tribute to Heroes

”You know…since the world changed in September…I read this article: Everybody’s having sex, first dates — boom, friends calling up other friends, boom, boom. There’s this new attitude: Why live for tomorrow, live for now. Do you know what I’m saying?” — Ally (Calista Flockhart) to her therapist on Ally McBeal

”I swear I’ve never seen anything like this….This whole place is like a complete war zone.” — MSNBC’s Ashleigh Banfield, reporting from near ground zero

”We have been the cowards lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That’s cowardly….Staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, it’s not cowardly.” — Bill Maher, Politically Incorrect

”In no way was I intending to say, nor have I ever thought, that the men and women who defend our nation in uniform are anything but courageous and valiant, and I offer my apologies to anyone who took it wrong.” — Bill Maher, Politically Incorrect, after getting flak for his above comment

”At times like this, we like escapism, and Temptation Island can provide a dumb distraction from what’s going on.” — Robert Thompson, professor of popular culture at Syracuse University

”My gut is that people will go to the familiar.” — Sandy Grushow, chairman of Fox Television Entertainment Group

”That sort of ironic, hip attitude is going to have to undergo revision. Any sort of sense of cynicism and self-absorption — nobody is going to be interested in that.” — Jonathan Galassi, publisher and editor in chief of Farrar, Straus and Giroux