I barely remember where I was last week at this time, but like most North Americans, I can clearly remember where I was 7 years ago on this day.
I was the assistant editor for a series of music/performance-based magazines. I had grabbed my extra large double double and headed in to work. I hadn’t finished the cup when my boss’ wife, Mo, came into the office and said a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center.
With no TV in the building, we all crowded around a little radio in Mo’s office and listened to reports that seemed unsure if it was an accident or a terrorist attack.
Back in front of my computer I tried to get on CNN’s site, but the flood of traffic had brought the site down.
Then the second plane hit and we all knew it wasn’t an accident.
The rest of the day was spent checking Web sites and trying to find out more information. I called my girlfriend, who not being one to watch the news was completely unaware. I spent my lunch-hour in front of my TV watching the awesomely horrific images of two of the world’s largest towers – towers I had visited – be hit by planes – like ones I had travelled in. Surreal doesn’t cover it.
The following day I had to travel up to Toronto for a tour of the Yorkville Sound factory I was doing an article on. To get there I needed to drive over the Burlington Skyway and for the entire trip I couldn’t keep images of a jetliner flying into it, however irrational, out of my head.
Only a few days before and I would have had put to use the deepest, darkest parts of my imagination to string together that image. But that day, and on any day since, it’s as simple as recalling a scene from a movie.
About two months after the attacks I was in Manhattan and it was remarkable to see how solemn, humble and friendly the attacks had made the city. Talking to Americans, and more specifically, New Yorkers, who only two months before had suffered the worst foreign attack in the country’s history, I was impressed with their resolve to not let it change them, not let it terrorize them.
In the seven years since the attack I’ve consumed about as much media as the next guy about the September 11th attacks. I’ve followed the memorials, the conspiracies, the justifications and condemnations.
What strikes me the most about the intervening time is that not since my November 2001 visit to NYC have I again seen that resolve to not be terrorized.
Instead, the US has allowed its media and its government to use that horrible tragedy to fill their time slots and ballot boxes. Manipulated it to manipulate the people it had made feel most vulnerable.
In the seven years since, foreign opinion of the US has gone from thinking of it a victim deserving of our sympathy to thinking of it as a bully deserving of our scorn.
In the seven years since, the War on Terror has had an ever-increasing army of shadows in caves to fight against. Terrorism has increased exponentially since the “war” was announced – a war, through its actions, virtually assures its perpetuity.
In the seven years since, rather than using the tragedy as an opportunity to bring people together, as the Manhattanites had shown me possible in 2001, the country has been galvanized into camps of thought that breed ignorance, hate and discrimination.
In the seven years since, America has gone from being a beacon of diversity, liberty and democracy to being a xenophobic nation willing to throw away the things that define it in hopes of increased safety against an unseen enemy.
Now, of course, this isn’t America. Not the America I grew up learning about and admiring. Not, I’m sure, the America most Americans grew up living in and being proud of.
Perhaps it is auspicious that seven years after the mirrored glass of the towers broke and fell, America is being given the opportunity to make changes. I’m not much for the fortunes that fate may bring. However, I do strongly believe that a powerful nation with a moral high-ground can bring about equality powerful and moral changes to the world.
It would truly be great if such a nation existed.
Peace be with those 2,998 families that deserve better than they’ve been given, and hope be with the even greater number who fight for the changes needed.