I’m not one for anniversaries, and I’d guess that those more directly affected by the 9/11 attacks don’t see this day as much different from the several thousand that have preceded it. But I remember that for some reason that morning I skipped reading Dave Winer’s scripting.com (the original blog). If I hadn’t, I would have known before cycling to work. Odd to think that there was actually a gap in my ability to receive such momentous news, just ten years ago. In 2011; I wouldn’t get far without my iPhone alerting me, via Twitter, RSS, voice, and more.
At work, when I saw people gathered around Trevor Hutchinson‘s monitor and I heard that a plane had struck the World Trade Center in New York, the image of a Cessna immediately came into my head.
I remember wondering, a bit later, if we were safe anywhere: was there going to be a coordinated attack on all major cities in North America, and I should go home? I stayed at work, but I didn’t work for more than half an hour that day. The web was much more unreliable in those days (or was it—what would happen now in similar circumstances today?), and I recall loading and reloading pages, trying to get the latest news. And wondering about an acquaintance in NYC—who, it turned out, was safe.
That day my mother (who died over four years ago) was in town. We sat looking at the television, at the endless replays of the planes hitting the towers; I’m not sure whether we were dumbfounded or what. I went to the grocery store and bought a copy of a special edition of the Vancouver Sun, rushed out to document the day. We actually went to a play at the Stanley Theatre that night. I suppose we felt there was no point in wasting the tickets we bought. But the play—something by Agatha Christie—had a big bang, a loud noise, near the end, and I think half of us almost had a heart attack. I remember being angry that the stage manager hadn’t decided to change course, at least for that one performance on that particular evening.
It was one of those moments seared into memory. Mine include the moon landing (just barely) and John Lennon’s death. “Where were you?”—we remember the geographical location, but the political and intellectual coordinates are more difficult to pinpoint.
People say we live in a different world. It is so, but it is hard to judge precisely how, because we can’t compare it to a world in which the attacks did not occur. I’m still a nervous flyer. We have wars, and we have political opportunism. And much of the world experiences almost daily the kind of horror we witnessed on our North American soil for the first time in decades. I’m currently reading a history of Ancient Egypt and in many senses, we simply never learn.
Will we survive?