Sunday, September 11, 2011

10 years ago today

It was a weekday morning like any other, so it started in the usual way. I got up a little before 7, padded out to the front door to get the paper and to the fridge to get a diet coke, and went back to bed to read and wake up with GMA on in the background.

At some point they broke into the (tape delayed for the Midwest) broadcast with a live bulletin that a small plane had hit the world trade center. I watched the footage for a bit then played media critic, grousing about the hype they were already giving to what appeared to be an accident involving a small private plane.

Then the second plane hit on live TV. I didn't see it, but one of the newscasters did and called for a replay and there it was. I think I lay there for 10 minutes, the newspaper still hanging in one hand, watching in disbelief.

Then I got up, went to the living room and watched hours and hours of coverage like the rest of the world. It didn't even occur to me for an hour or two to check in with loved ones in New York. One of the most disturbing moments of the day was getting an automated phone message saying that the lines were down due to a tornado -- that's right, a tornado -- in the area.

I had been happily working on my own for two years and this was the first time I felt any downside to it. I thought it would be helpful to go through this experience with co-workers. I suddenly felt very isolated.

On the other hand, I discovered the virtual community that was the Internet. And since phones and offices were in chaos, my conversations with people online constituted most of my interaction. I learned from others, engaged in useless speculation, was comforted, and also did considerable spleen venting, expressing some things I regret. Vengeance and retribution and all that.

One thing I'm grateful for is that I've really let go of the anger. Now I mostly have sadness, both for the event itself and for all the horrible, useless things our nation did in response. George Will uncharacteristically summed it up well today:
"Of all the sadness surrounding this anniversary, the most aching is the palpable and futile hope that commemoration can somehow help heal self-inflicted wounds."
I hate that my feelings about 9/11 have to be so complicated now. I long for simple, unalloyed sadness.

Sometime late in the afternoon on that Tuesday, I had had enough. It felt like I had spent a week in front of the television. I turned it off and went down to the lake and was surprised to see so many other people there doing the same thing. Some seemed engaged in normal, everyday conversations, even smiling and laughing together.

It was a surreal moment, but an early signal already that things would, indeed, get back to normal. Probably faster than we'd imagine.

I am hoping that tomorrow marks the beginning of a new and better decade, filled with hope and prosperity. I thought the '70s were an awful time. How little did I know.

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