As we near 9-11’s 10th anniversary…

After you read this post (or before, it’s up to you) read the first article I wrote about 9-11 here… dark day.

The two most recent articles I’ve written:

Last year I didn’t even write anything.  The 9th anniversary didn’t seem that special, I guess, or I was busy with life and after a few years it’s easier to forget than remember.  But now it’s 10 years.  It’s funny how humans have such an attachment to dates, anniversaries and numbers.  Some numbers are very well-known for their significance – 13 is unlucky, 3.1415926536 is pi.  But the number 2.1 means something very specific to me that I don’t share with anyone.  Some anniversaries are personal – weddings, birthdays … and some are universal like 9-11.  Everyone knows what you are referring to when you mention 9-11.

Or do they?  I wonder if we’ll remember what that meant to the world, to America, to New York, to Manhattan, the Pentagon and Pennsylvania in 100 years.  Do we remember today?  Have 10 years of the war on terror avenged that day?  Maybe, in a small way.  Have 10 years of the war on terror hurt our standing in the world?  Are the people behind the attacks better off?  Are we?  Is anyone?

I am a student of history.  I’ve read histories of the Russian Revolution over and over and I’ve been obsessed at times with (American) Civil War history, the Founding Fathers and the military history of the Battle of Stalingrad.  History is big, though.  Events that were earth-shattering when they took place become footnotes in the history of the world.  Remember Archduke Ferdinand? No checking Google.  Do you know what Beslan was?  Or Agincourt?  Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair.

But I’ve said this before on this blog and elsewhere, 9-11 was the great tragic event of MY life so far.  Maybe the two Space Shuttle disasters come close in emotional impact, but probably not.  This was the tragedy of my life, and although I understand in the scope of human history – for example, the tsunami of 2004 or the Holocaust or any number of tragedies – it was a small thing, it was the one I felt most intensely.  I left New York two plus years ago, but I think a small part of me died and stayed behind there 10 years ago.  It was the naïve part of me.  It was the part of me that was excited to come to the most interesting city on Earth, found out I loved it and then had a group of animals masquerading as humans (and they were – no doubt about it) attack it.

I saw the city and the world come together in love and then wrench apart in hate and never recover.  I don’t know what this event will look like in 100 years or 1000.  I won’t know, I’ll be gone.  Barring some increase in the average lifespan my children won’t, either.  I only know that 10 years after 9-11, I remember this:  I watched out the window of office on the 34th floor of a Manhattan highrise as the first and then the second tower fell with my own eyes.  I called my parents and said everything would be OK, while in my mind I was really saying goodbye, because I didn’t know.  I promised whatever else happened to find my little brother who lived in downtown Manhattan.  I walked out on the street to sirens and jet fighters.  That night the air was full of dust and fear of the unknown.  I doubt I’ll forget, even if history does.

Picture by me.

PS And as I’ve mentioned before, volunteering to help load Salvation Army relief trucks in downtown Manhattan in the following days was the only thing that kept me from curling up into a fetal position.  Support the Salvation Army, those men and women were working until they were passing out on their feet (literally).  They did good work without any intent of recognition or reward.

3 Replies to “9.11.11”

  1. Ten years later and it still doesn’t make sense. I remember the first attack on the WTC. It was shocking but not that big a deals since there wasn’t much damage. But the second attacks leave a hole in my heart and soul.

    “I saw the city and the world come together in love and then wrench apart in hate and never recover.”

    Great line and great description of the city. In the days after 9-11 the city came together like I’ve never seen before. It’s like we were all at one big funeral, there to help and support each other. But in the years after, I’ve seen more division in the city that represents our great american melting pot. In many ways the city is polarized. You hear people talking about fear and discrimination.

    NYC is a great city. It could be more and I hope it continues to grow and evolve. I’ll stop rambling now. Ten years later and it’s still tough to get my head around what happened.

  2. Interesting – I was in Soho that day working and lived in Queens throughout the whole nasty affair and remember the aftermath a bit differently than “coming together in love”, perhaps because of being not-American. I remember things like being asked quite accusingly on several occasions by total strangers why I wasn’t wearing a flag pin and the idiots with KILL ‘EM ALL type signs in their trucks staring down my husband with genuine menace. Plus remember all the fake stories and rumours passed as fact in the gutter press? Then a couple of friends losing their minds – one who started drinking and never stopped due to losing a spouse, one who had a horrific experience that morning and ended up going home to Ireland quite damaged. The weeks afterward were certainly much more stressful than the day itself for me personally, although of course I’m lucky to be able to say that.

    I actually saw a couple of ads on TV the other day – rescue dogs of 9/11, Canadian airports during 9/11, at this point there seems to be endless garbage being made to “mark” the day. Not to mention the NY Mag article about the registered 9/11 charities on the make. It’s just like 10 years ago to me, total overload of self important media/opinionator nonsense at this point. Personally I haven’t watched or read a minute of the “coverage”, hopefully its kept tasteful and low key, but I’m actively trying to forget about the whole thing and I hope I can avoid it for another 12 hours.

    1. @guinness416: No, I understand there was a lot of creepy stuff going on too, but that’s like blaming Americans circa 2003 for Iraq – many of us weren’t for the war. I know there was a lot of anti-Arab or even frankly anti-dark-skinned-people idiocy going on, and of course I’m not referring to any of that. But I think there was a brief flash of people being supportive of the fire department and police and rescue workers, and even for a few days there were pictures from around the world of people lighting candles and being genuinely sorry. Of course even in the worst tragedies there’s going to be an idiot who says “yeah, God sent the hurricane to punish America because we allow gay marriage” but I make a generalization – people were generally better for a few days before the “atomize the Middle East” insanity set in.

      I haven’t watched TV (except football and Jimmy Neutron with the kids) all day, and don’t plan to. Of course the media will make a horrible botch of the whole thing and miss the point, which is this: some bad non-humans did a bad thing and we should be sad for normal people who died. A lot of other hateful things happened in association with that event, but what happened – what I was writing about – was that a lot of people died horrific deaths because of terrorists. It’s sad, it was horrible for the dead and for the survivors, and that’s that. I know idiots used that event to become bigger idiots, but that is a separate thing. For a few days, at least, I thought most normal humans were a little bit better. Just my perception.

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