This is a solemn day in rememberance of the catastrophe of September 11, 2001. I remember being at my desk in Les Ulis a little after lunch and having a colleague say (in French), “what the fuck!” and when ever my browser would unfreeze I would see the unfolding drama nearly live from downtown Manhattan. I saw the pictures of the second plane. The third one, the falling towers, the forth plane. Feelings of doom and gloom obviously predominated. Incomprehensible and unimaginable. Was I in a dream or was this real? That night I got stoned for the first time in my life. I mean really, really stoned. I got in this, like, time warp where events just kept repeating like the explosion scenes on the internet and on the television. It was decidedly uncomfortable and basically confirmed why I had avoided getting stoned for so long…a long and interminable nightmare for the entire planet. Terrorism, fanaticism, war…all of these are synonymous with the post-911 coverage in all of the press and what everyone talked about for weeks…
Of course the irony of ‘911’ being the emergency call number wasn’t lost on my either. From the beginning of the crisis, I was worried about an abusive misuse of the situation by the Bush Administration to push a war-mongering, xenophobic, Christian-right agenda which would have disastrous economic aftermath. Well, unfortunately, those fears were entirely justified. No, I am not going to go stark, raving mad and suggest that there was a mega-conspiracy, etc. but I will say that the political manipulation of people’s fears and post-traumatic stress to push a particular political agenda still pisses me off.
So, that all got me to thinking, are we obliged to make catastrophes our generational markers? Instead of being identified by where we were when Kennedy was shot (both for JFK and Robert), when Nixon resigned, when Reagan was shot, when the Challenger blew up, when the tours fell…can’t we try to take a positive angle? How about where were you when the Armstrong walked on the moon, or when US beat the USSR in the 1980 Olympic final, or when Obama was inaugurated – because no matter what you think about his administration so far, you cannot deny that electing a black president thus ending symbolically at least the 400-year old struggle for freedom was exhilarating – wouldn’t these be just a hair more positive? Or perhaps, it the problem that the positive events were all planned as opposed to catastrophes (such as more recently the Fukushima disaster) which are random and sudden and thus perhaps, as such, bigger shocks to the system?
If 9-11 can teach us anything 10 years later, perhaps it will be to appreciate what is really important – our family, our friends, and, especially, our kids – and hold on to them as tightly as we can. We can try to make what little we control in their lives to be motivated by love, common sense and selflessness. We can also try to create positive memories that can perhaps at least attenuate the negative ones. Well, that is how 9-11 makes me feel today in any case – solemn and appreciative.