Monday, September 11, 2006

On this day in history

I used to work at home on a Tuesday, the legacy of a study leave arrangement with work. And I actually used to work at home as well, I'd start at 9am, work until 12.30, start again at 1.30 and finish at 5pm.

Mid-morning the phone rang, it was someone from work, they wanted to know if I had some papers with me. I had the phone upstairs, so I ran downstairs to look in my bag. I picked up the downstairs phone to confirm that I did have it.

Completing the call, I went back to work. I only had dial-up, I didn't need constant access to the web. At lunchtime I went downstairs for a sandwich and looked at the news on Ceefax. The third story listed said a plane had hit the World Trade Center, I think it originally said it was a small plane and there were no confirmations of any fatalities. I assumed that this was a regular occurrence, given its minor billing.

I went back to work; at about 4pm I came down to make a cup of tea. Whilst the kettle boiled I flicked on the TV to catch up on the football news. Each channel was awash with pictures of grey rubble. The commentary was talking about a plane hitting the Pentagon. I started to question my own understanding; I thought the Pentagon was in Washington, maybe it was in New York, maybe the World Trade Center was the Pentagon. My initial reaction was denial; hopefully it was just an accident and nobody had been hurt.

I watched on and it became clear what was going on. At some point I went upstairs, and saw that the phone I'd answered in the morning was still off the hook. People had been trying to phone. In part to find out whether I was in London - the fear at the time was that the whole world was under attack and being in London was one of the worst places to be.

My initial reaction was that the perpetrators didn't know who they were messing with. Also that the worst person possible was in charge of any response. Both fears were realised, I guess, looking at the cack-handed reprisals that have materialised.

Emma got home, a plumber came round to do some work, looked at the TV and said 'That's fucking scary isn't it?'. We watched for hours, seeing re-runs of the planes slamming into the towers and then the towers falling. We turned off, or over, I can't remember... it was so horrifyingly boring; if such a thing exists.

I've never written about 9/11 before, I suppose mine is not a very interesting story. But this is the event of our times characterised by its mass participation. The Towers were at the focal point of an island that's more photographed and filmed than any other in the world. The news shot around the world in minutes; the internet allowed the reaction to echo back within seconds. Nobody was a observer, everyone was able to play a part, no other building or city would have had the same impact, no other era could have hosted such a response from everyone from firemen trapped in the rubble to people who forgot to put the phone down. Its this which makes the event obscenely perfect. What were you doing?


Newer Post Older Post Home

Blogger Template by Blogcrowds