Friday, September 11, 2009
I remember the first time I saw the Twin Towers, in 1998. My mother wanted to go inside and climb up to the top floor, and I refused to even step into them. They were so tall and intimidating to me, I got a bad feeling around them. However, I did take a cool artsy shot from underneath of them, looking at them from an angle. I went back to NYC the week of 9/11, for a Michael Jackson concert at Madison Square Garden (the last concert shows he ever performed). I was literally walking around in the financial district two days prior and would have been in town during the actual day were it not for an accident involving the ticket seller making a mistake and switching my tickets for the earlier show date. When I left the city, I remember looking back at the sky line one last time as we drove away. Little did I know how forever changed it would be, as well as the city and country as a whole.
I remember the moment I found out, as does anyone else. One of my college best friends called me on the phone at 8 in the morning to tell me to turn on the television as something had hit the Pentagon. I literally watched the towers fall on live television. It was the most surreal visual and something straight out of a Hollywood special effects studio. It didn't feel real. I was JUST there. How could it be? And how many people did I pass on the street those days that suddenly weren't around to talk about their day? Innocent people just going to work. I was so jarred I didn't want to leave the house but had a chemistry class shortly thereafter. I was somewhat of a zombie walking into that building and I remember the classroom was abuzz. Not everyone knew about it yet, so students were filling eachother in. The teacher proceeded with starting the class, saying that "In times like these, it's best to carry on." A head promptly popped through our door to announce that school was closed. Everyone ran home and stayed glued to their radios and TV sets. So little was known.
The world has changed so much since that day. I remember how patriotic I felt afterwards. Not that I ever wasn't but I remember saying the Pledge of Allegiance as a kid and not really thinking about the meaning of the words (which probably happens when you don't really get much of a choice in saying it at school). The bit about our flag still being there despite the bombs bursting in air really choked me up afterwards. There was a sense of unity that came out of 9/11 (I guess there was another silver lining) that is hard to describe. I remember a commercial that ran on TV at the time that said it all, depicting a neighborhood prior to 9/11 that said something about the terrorists wanting to change the world and then a caption that said 'They did' and the same neighborhood being pictured boasting flags on every lawn. That's basically what happened. If tough New Yorkers could change their attitudes responses towards eachother, so could the rest of us. I think in some ways 9/11 definitely made us stronger in terms of feeling collective and part of something instead of a nation of just individuals, however naturally there were also undesirable consequences. War, the anti-Muslim sentiment some ignorant people expressed (and still do), the fear and paranoia so drilled into our heads, the political nonsense.
I recently went back to NYC last year and indeed it felt different. I remember going to the World Trade Center site to pay my respects. I was surprised to find that there were no reminders there, other than the obvious. I guess there doesn't need to be but I imagined there to be some sort of tribute or flowers or something but there wasn't a trace of it. The holes in the ground (still there years later) were a constant enough reminder and the city wanted to naturally move foward, even though most of the site is obscured by fence as construction efforts remain underway as they will for a long time to build the Freedom Tower. I'm actually glad the public chose to rebuild, I think it's a good idea. Though I would have been just as content with a memorial park, whatever the New Yorkers decided. The designs for the tower look amazing and I hope it does usher in strong feelings of renewed hope and optimism this country badly needs in times of such crippling recession and global change.
Of course our airport experiences are completely changed, an inconvenience I don't mind provided it makes air travel safer - it's a small price to pay. I was in Europe on the 5th anniversary of 9/11 (I can't believe it's been 8 years). While I was there, soldiers with machine guns were guarding Charles de Gaulle airport in France and there was a bomb scare on the plane I was on where we were promptly moved to a remote section of the airport in case we all blew up. There was also a bomb scare in the subway in Paris while we were aboard. When I went to Italy, the Twin Towers were on the covers of the newspapers and all over television. It really does make you realize the global impact of that day as well as the united sense it managed to bring about.
I do think the positive and negative effects are still very much alive and I hope we can all find it within ourselves to keep an open-mind towards one another and continue to seek peace and understanding. The world definitely needs so much more of that and in some ways 9/11 set back that progress. Despite these difficult times, I feel a great deal of hope for this country and for the world at large as long as we keep an eye towards the future and learn from the past.
RIP to all of those lost and condolences and healing to their friends and families.
Where were you on 9/11? What did it mean to you?
Note: PopSpiracy recommends watching "Man on Wire", Oscar winner for Best Documentary last year. An all-time favorite and a great story involving the Towers (not 9/11 related) showcasing the hope and inspiration they inspired in one man to dream big and do the unthinkable. GREAT stuff.