“I had finished breakfast, I was near the kitchen table, facing out I think, listening to 92.5 FM, Kiss 92, when Billy [sic], the female half of the morning crew, announced that a plane had just crashed into the World Trade Center. I thought what are they joking about now, but when they continued to report what they were watching on CNN, I went…to the TV to see if this was real. CTV…I knew would have coverage thru’ Canada AM. I saw one tower burning. We went from chopper angle to angle, & in one we saw a plane zip between the 2 towers & the second one explode. My incomprehension turned to shock…. I left the TV…a couple of times...[and] every time I came back something horrific had happened. It was like my car crash, when I thought it was over, it wasn’t. I saw the 2nd tower implode live – it looked like one of those buildings companies take down by explosion. All those people, those poor people…. I am too horrified to sleep.” (From my journal entry for Tuesday, September 11, 2001)
What I didn’t record was that my first thought in seeing that plane explode into the second tower was: this is war. I guess that day we felt what former generations had felt. One moment, lives are a routine of sleep, eat, work, dance, drink, sleep; the next, women are working as equals to men, and men are dying in the tens of thousands in a foreign land (for us today in the almost hundreds).
It was that sudden switch from normalcy to incomprehensible carnage, that horror collapsing into horror, that knowledge that war had been brought to us, all piling up until your body quivers in anticipation of the next blow – it was that that gave this shocking event its lasting trauma. I fished out my journal because Postmedia asked me to write a piece on 9/11. Rereading it reminded me of that day in a way that simply reliving the memories did not, memories of watching Kevin Newman fly into his anchor chair, a little dishevelled at this entrance-by-fire to his new job as Global National anchor; memories of not knowing what to do when the day was over; memories of a worried night. And while this abomination unfolded, the President of the United States, the leader of the Americans being blown up, disappeared into the air. A country needs its leader to be front and centre, not coddled in a secure airplane. But perhaps that’s the American way. It’s not the Canadian way…I hope.
As time has gone by with no new killings on the 9/11 scale and as the war has dragged on, testing the short-thinking ways of North Americans, the trauma of that day has faded. It’s easy to forget who began the war and why it’s important to be in Afghanistan. It’s easy to once again believe that the ocean will protect us from the madmen and to retreat back into our warm, safe homes in an illusion of snugness, eschewing vigilance.