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September 11th

I slept though the terror attacks of September 11th, 2001. That morning I awoke to find a flustered Aaron Brown speaking on CNN, then an image of a World Trade Center tower with smoke coming out the top. A humungous cloud of smoke erupted from behind the burning tower, and before it could dissapate the worst came to mind. Like everybody else, I spent the day in a daze, numb. Frightened, wondering if this was happening in cities all over. The next day, I went through the digital photo archives at the newspaper where I worked at the time. I wanted to experience the photographs that many news outlets didn’t publish out of fear of upsetting their readers — not so much out of morbid curiosity as wanting to see as much of the whole picture as possible. Because you just know that, as time goes on, people will shape the events into what they want them to be. The weird, gloomy yet hyper-patriotic atmosphere of late 2001 played out that way.

Five years on, the memories of that awful day hang over us like a shadow. Although we try to ease the pain by focusing on examples of heroism and self-sacrifice (like in the two recent 9-11 feature films), we can’t get away from the sheer dread that day conjures. Images of the collapsing towers are still painful and have this nightmarish quality. It never really hits that, watching that, I’m witnessing a simultaneous mass death. Did that really happen? Maybe that’s why we can’t get away from it.

Depressingly, the last five years have unfolded exactly as I imagined they would immediately post-9-11. I knew that the president was going to exploit everything to suit his own agenda, and sure enough he did. We’re still in a war. Americans still feel unsafe. It might take ten, twenty years — or never — to get over it. I’ll get back to posting on happier subjects tomorrow, but it feels cathartic to write this down. Thanks for the indulgence.

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