Yesterday marked seven years since the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and United Flight 93 (wow, the time went fast). The usual hemming and hawing came from all sides of the political spectrum ("We should never forget," "This shows how evil our enemies truly are," "This tragic event has been used to justify illegal wars," "9/11 was an excuse to take away our civil liberties," etc.).
There are some who say that Sept. 11, 2001, was the most traumatic event in American history -- bigger than Pearl Harbor, even. While I think there are certainly similarities to Pearl Harbor, I think enough time has passed for me to begin to put Sept. 11, 2001 (we really gotta come up with a better name than "9/11") into a proper historical perspective.
For anyone in their seventies or better, there will be nothing more traumatic than Pearl Harbor -- which is my nominee as well. I think a lot of the "9/11" hysteria is coming simply because of both the live nature of the event and the fact that it happened to their generation. Outside of new air travel difficulties and the fact there are no longer trash cans in subway stations, I don't think my life is much different than it would have been without "9/11." (People in New York or who've lost a loved one in combat, etc., might understandably feel different.) Pearl Harbor, however, changed the face of the world. It brought in a new global power scheme, massive economic upheavel and was one step on a road that cost 50 million lives. Now THAT's impact.
I'm not saying forget the lessons of "9/11," and certainly let's not let our liberties be eroded either by terrorists or the government in its wake. But let's try to get a little perspective.
My experiences on Sept. 11, 2001: I woke up to a phone call about 7:05 a.m. It was Michelle Gibson, one of my fellow San Mateo County Civil Grand jurors, telling me that our tour of the Sheriff's Honor Camp near La Honda had been cancelled because everyone was on high alert. I thought maybe there had been a fire or something and asked Michelle what was going on. "You haven't seen the news? Watch the news," she said. I flipped on the small bedroom TV to KTVU, which was simulcasting CNN.
I saw an image of smoke billowing from the Twin Towers, with a bug underneath stating there had been terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. There was a explosion (it turns out it was a replay of the second plane hitting) and I briefly thought that terrorists were using small rockets like the ones they periodically attack Israel with. A cut back to a live shot showed a huge amount of smoke and dust and I did not even register that a tower had fallen until the voice over said so. I quickly checked online, trying to get a WTC webcam I had bookmarked (obviously it was off-line), then returned to the bedroom and sat with Claire just in time to see the North Tower fall.
The rest of the day was a blur. I heard the incredulous news that all air travel was suspended and only then noticed the deathly silence outside -- we then, as now, lived by the flightpath of San Francisco International Airport. I took a shower thinking "We're at war," and watched news coverage the rest of the day. Of all the wall-to-wall coverage that day, one of the most surprising news sources was MTV, which was simulcasting CBS coverage. I immediately thought Osama bin Laden was the most likely suspect (I was probably one of the few Americans who knew who he was prior to "9/11") and even got out some frustrations by playing a Harpoon computer game, in which the scenario was to destroy terrorist bases (albeit in Libya in this case).
Claire went to work at the San Francisco State University bookstore, but was sent home around midday. We then went to the inlaws' house for dinner, where we ate pasta and watched the news.
Funny thing is, we didn't normally watch the morning news then and I was unemployed at the time. If not for the Honor Camp Tour (which I had completely forgotten about), I would have slept through history, not finding out until I turned on the television around 11 a.m. or noon, Pacific time.