A Distant Viewpoint on 9/11

It was eight days before my fifth birthday.  Still fuzzy in my memory is of a darkened room, a round (yes round), black and white, flickering, image on a tiny television.  The static voices and that insistent beep between phrases.  Yes, if you’ve not guessed it, it was the Apollo 11 landing and humanity’s first step on another celestial body.

Move on to grade three.  The entire elementary school gathered in the library around a bigger (though not much) colour television.  The excitement, the nerves, the rapt attention of the children kindergarten to grade five.  Then, then.  Paul Henderson shoots!  SCORES!  I swear I heard the entire country cheer!  Yeah, the 1972 Summit Series between the USSR and Canada.  Wow, still get chills.

Since then these iconic images and sounds have never faded from the ever-receding recesses of my memory.

This event as well.  I was walking down the stairs of the condo I had at the time.  The TV was on in the living room.  Mid-way down the stairs I looked at the screen just as the second plane hit the tower…

Had to pinch myself.  A movie maybe?  But after checking out all the channels, they played the same, different, excited voices, but the imagery unchanging.

No.  Real!

The first emotional tendrils I felt was for those poor people experiencing such a horrendously violent event.  Then, as I am wont to do, I began to internalize the overwhelming tsunami of my emotions.  I wanted to weep.  Again as I’m wont to do.

I watched as long as I could.  Life was going on in our part of the world and I had to get to work.  I listened to the radio all the way in.  The reporters were giving second by second accounts, with as many viewpoints, as many interviews as physically possible.

At work some were watching what they could on the internet, some gathered in the boardroom watching a fuzzy screen (as we didn’t have a proper cable connection).  Then, then.  The first town fell.  I was in the boardroom and remember the slap of shock, the gasps of others in the room.  Someone saying, “no, no, not real.”

Then as the second tower fell the disbelief of it sunk in.   Who would do such a thing?  Why and how could this happen in a country, like Canada, who has so rarely had such a brutal events occur on its soil!

Then life kicked in and as the billowing dust along the New York streets began to settle, we, being at such a distance, went about our lives.  One eye, one ear on the continuing reports.

Unlike the summit series and somewhat unlike the moon landing, this event stretched out well beyond a few hours, or days.  Such a dark day spawned so many long reaching shadows.  War is the obvious one.  Anyone feel it was worth it by the way?  Then there was the quick change by lawmakers world-wide to restrict rights, garner more surveillance, capture and keep private information about you and I.  But, really, after such an event is it not expected reaction?  Expect anything to stay the same?

Perspective: yes, it was a god-awful episode in human history.  Yes, 3,000 people died.  Yes, billions in damages.  Yet were the 122K plus civilian Iraq deaths, trillions in war expenditures as well as economic effects on the participating countries (not to mention the world!), and the thousands of brave men and women who either died or were injured in their choice to take on the fight so very far away from home.  Was it worth it?

Before you answer that… I know we are a species who rarely learns from the past and even more rarely sees beyond the next month; however, in a hundred years, do you think historians will conclude this was all an overreaction?

The question that often arises in my mind is: are we safer now?  Really?

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