This Saturday is the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. I think it’s hard for most of us to remember how it all felt that day. CBC Newsworld recently played a documentary called 102 Minutes that Changed America. The documentary recounts the events of the morning of September 11th from the perspective of never-before-seen camera footage from people on the ground in Manhattan and New Jersey. Interspersed were 9-11 emergency calls. Perhaps most haunting was the recorded, real-time conversations between those watching the fires rage in the World Trade Towers.
Perhaps the most dramatic moment was when a pair of girls watching the NYU Dorm were recording out their window when the second airplane slammed into the other tower. Their shrill screams and instant terror communicated a feeling that washed over anyone who watched that day, “This isn’t an accident.”
My father, and many others, have said that 9/11 will be the Kennedy Assassination for my generation. It is a cultural touch-point that we can all look back on and ask the same question, and we will have an answer to what we did that day.
My 9/11 story is a little strange. On Tuesday September 11, 2001 I was home sick. I had a fever and the flu. After waking up from a restless feverous sleep I turned on the TV and since it was morning television, I put on CNN. CNN already picked up the breaking news of the first tower on fire. Lying in bed with a fever watching something like that you begin to wonder if you’re delusional. I was only 13 at the time. It’s hard to think it was so long ago.
That fear, the fear about what could happen next was intense. Canadian media was scared about the planes overhead our nation, while the Americans counted down the planes they didn’t have an account for. The rumours over what got hit next, and the idea that anywhere could be next.
When commentators last December and January started calling the decade between 2000 and 2009 a lost decade it was easy to know what they meant. The events that stemmed from 9/11 are still echoing around the world. As a historian I wonder how 9/11 will fit in the context of the next century. Will it be a blip? Something whose impact will fade in the coming decade, or is the death of Franz Ferdinand, whose impact shaped the modern world? Maybe I’ll leave long enough to know, but I was there for the start