Some Thoughts on The 10th Anniversary of 9/11

There’s a lot of commentary today online, in other media and at memorials around the world.   So instead of adding to the noise, I thought I’d do a quick round-up of some of the most interesting things I’ve seen…

(Oh, okay – I’ll quickly do my own “Where were you when?” story since I don’t think I’ve ever blogged about it.  It’s nothing special – I’d just been hired at the Writers Guild of Alberta and had done 2-3 days of training with the outgoing Program Coordinator but she’s run out of things to teach me so I had a couple days off before my official start date which I think was scheduled to be September 15 or something.  Shea and I were sleeping in our apartment when the phone rang.  Shea’s mom was on the line and told us what had happened then warned us not to go downtown or even to go out if we could help it.  Calgary has their own twin towers but I think she meant her warning more generally as, like so many people that day, nobody knew where or when further attacks might happen.)

We turned on the TV and I don’t really remember much about the next few hours as we both sat there basically glued to the TV, flipping between CNN, CTV, CBC coverage.  No laptop or wifi or iPhone in those days and no real social networking either so I also went on my desktop computer in our office and tried to find out more.  But of course, many sites were overwhelmed and not accessible.  The MetaFilter thread I link to below was one of my main sources of ongoing news and I also remember that I ended up in a ICQ – remember that program? – chat with a former co-worker in Saskatchewan where we traded news and speculation.  Later that day, suffering a bit of overload – in terms of information but also in terms of emotion – we decided to go out and run some errands.  We went to Costco and I can’t think of a more surreal experience in my life then walking through the huge aisles of Costco, looking around and thinking “you’re alive and possibly 20 000 people in New York are dead” as I walked past people.  “Look at all this STUFF you can buy with MONEY but who cares about that anymore?”  And yes, I also was having many of those “the world has changed” thoughts too.)

Kirk Miles, one of the poets I got to know during my time in Calgary posted the following poem on his Facebook wall and so I thought I’d re-post it here:


Dust is the story of someone’s sorrow.
We see it all, sad listener.
(May I call you sad listener?)

Everything has changed in the news today.
Swirling particles where fathers should be.
Everything has changed including
the shape of mountains and the color of revenge.
Everything has changed except atrocities
and all the dust they send.
Dust is the sound of hijacked screams.
We see it all, sad listener.
(May I call you sad listener?)

Everything has changed on this
September morn.
Accounts payable pages float down
like unfinished business.
Human bodies caught falling
like humans bodies falling.
Everything has changed—
the air is shrieking
as we are scraping the sky
for meaning.
Dust is the sister of tragic ashes
We see it all sad listener.
(May I call you sad listener?)

Everything has changed inside the TV:
Planes exploding like excited stars,
buildings awash with smoke and terror
and the weight of collapsing steel,
like the death toll, is more than we can bear.
Everything has changed
as Auden shouts from the third tower,
the tower we build from light and water:
“There will be no peace.
They hate for hate’s sake.”
Dust is the feel of sand in a throat
We see it all, sad listener.
(May I call you sad listener?)

Everything has changed as
commerce wobbles then topples
and carpeted halls turn to powder.
Everything has changed except
we do not need the money
as much as we need each other.
Everything has changed including the shape
of clouds and the colour of fear.
Dust is the story of someone’s sorrow.
We see it all, sad listener.
(May I call you sad listener?)

Comments 2

  1. Peggy wrote:

    Just wanted to note that my experience was quite different. Maybe it is an age thing (I’m a few years older than you) or maybe something else, but I didn’t react the same way at all. I watched the second plane hit the towers live on TV. It was shocking and sad but unfortunately, sad events happen somewhere in the world quite frequently. Then I went to work at the library. I don’t even remember people at work talking about it much and no one seemed concerned about going out.
    The next few days were kind of weird. We could see YVR outside the apartment with the planes parked on the runways. We tried to limit our young kids exposure to the images and news so we only watched the coverage after they went to bed.
    This was a significant event but I wouldn’t say it was a ‘world changing day’; the world changes in big and small ways every day.
    Just thought I would add my two cents. I really enjoy your blog, thanks for writing!

    Posted 13 Sep 2011 at 11:49 am
  2. HeadTale wrote:

    Although tragedies, large and small, happen on a daily basis, I think that 9/11 – being the first major terrorist attack on North American soil, the potential loss of life (initially, there was speculation that up to 50 000 or more people could’ve been killed), and the realization that the world was going to change in a major way (everything from the unprecedented sight of guards on transit buses to protect Muslim drivers to the knowledge that there would be retaliation of some kind and likely a war) – all made it a world changing event in my view.

    I do think time has softened the initial heightened sensations, reactions and worries that so many people felt. But now, even ten years later, 9/11 still feels like one of those (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime events – on par with things like Pearl Harbour, the JFK Assassination, the Challenger exploding, etc.

    Thanks for posting – glad you like the blog.

    Posted 22 Sep 2011 at 11:47 pm

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