11. September 2005 · Comments Off on Anniversary Meditation: Oceana, Eurasia · Categories: General, GWOT, History

So the anniversary rolls around again, fainter yet and fainter as we put distance between ourselves, and a brilliant September day. A work-day then, a Sunday now, but still the great crack across our world-view, our basic assumptions, and for the families of some 3,000 a great jagged break in their lives. People set off for work, or to Disneyland, or headed home… grabbing a last cup of coffee, stuffing things into briefcases, focused on a day of travel, or at their desk, teleconferencing, checking out a suspected gas leak in the street, or pretending to pay attention to a cabin attendant going through the required safety brief. They were setting appointments, eating breakfast at their desk on the 102nd floor… and then the day stopped being ordinary, and everyone remembers where they were, and what they were doing.

Of course, some of us caught on faster than others; at mid-afternoon on the 11th, I was gently trying to explain to my employer why no one wanted to take calls, or come into the office to talk about their invention, that this whole planes-crashing-into-the-WTC-and-Pentagon thing was huge, unimaginably huge, and the repercussions would be enormous, and unforeseeable. (One of them being eventually the death of the enterprise I was employed by, but that is another story.) The planes being grounded— that’s what brought it home to him. The office in the Mercantile building had a gorgeous, unobstructed of downtown San Antonio, and the final flight-path of airliners coming in for a landing at the airport, sliding past our windows like beads on a string every few minutes… and then the sky was empty, and things were never quite the same again.

Reactions to 9/11 varied according to an infinite number of variables; how close to New York or the Pentagon, how connected to financial markets, or the media, or emergency services, or what kind of interest one had in politics, history, military, current events… but not always predictably. A fair number of people who had always been comfortably settled somewhere along the liberal segment along the range of political thought suddenly discovered their inner Jacksonian, moving abruptly and sometimes painfully into the conservative segment. Others, including many public intellectuals, moved farther along the range, and not a few toppled off the edge entirely… either that, or the spectrum itself lurched in the Jacksonian direction, leaving some like Lewis Lapham and Gore Vidal hanging from their fingertips and bleating about their own relevancy. And a clown like Ward Churchill could, thanks to weblogs and the internet, suddenly become all the more visible, and considerably less amusing to a national audience. The main-line news sources; newspapers, television, radio— they all have been stirred up, shaken out, questioned and dissected mercilessly by bloggers over the last four years, and in a couple of cases, actually driven to cover stories that ordinarily would have been passed over as irrelevant.

But it has been four years since that Tuesday morning. Children who were babies on that day are starting kindergarten this month. Children who were in the first or second grade that day, barely aware of anything more complicated than the alphabet, are on the verge of being teenagers in a world where the towers have never been, save in movies and history lessons. The reality of them, the solidity of steel and concrete fades and dissipates like smoke, shock and grief overlaid with time and the business of living in the world day to day. It is just something that has always been, and will go on for the forseeable future.

Indeed, the edges of my own memories are now blurred around the edges: in the last four years, my daughter deployed to the Middle East twice, my parents’ house burned to the ground, I have repainted and rehabbed my own kitchen, and gone to other employment , and taken over management of this weblog. We have gone through a bruising presidential election and a war on two fronts, we continue to face the threat of terrorism by international Islamic radical elements, and a slew of rotten Hollywood movies based on comic books and old TV shows. We have seen revolution in Lebanon, a tsunami in Thailand and Indonesia, terrorism in Bali, Beslan and London… and a hurricane wrecking one of our major cities and a swath of coastal lowlands the size of most European countries. Yes, the world does move on…

But today, we remember.

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