Another sombre anniversary of three aircraft crashes that drastically changed the trajectory of the world. Like many of you, I stood for hours staring at the TV screen with horrid fascination. I’ll never be the same, either.
It was a warm, sunny fall day and I’d just come in from a long bike ride from my house in Innisfil to the shores of Lake Simcoe and back. I’d come downstairs to open the sliding door to the garden to catch the warm breeze in my office. The phone rang. It was my best friend Jessie.
“Turn on the television. Right now!”
I tried to joke. “What, has something happened on Oprah?”
“Turn the damn thing on. I’m not kidding. You’re not going to believe it.”
Warmed by a slant of sunlight, I had no idea … I froze with the remote in my hand, clicking frantically from channel to channel, numb with not wanting to believe.
“No. It’s frigging real. Can you believe it?”
Eventually, I had to. Every single channel had a different view of the devastation. Hundreds of men and women stumbling through choking clouds of smoke. The excruciatingly slow slump of the Twin Towers. Flames. Waves of paper fluttering like uncaged birds. The falling men. The emergency workers racing to the conflagration. Vehicles blanketed with ash. Every television announcer with a different theory.
I can’t describe the gut-deep ache I felt. Still feel, actually, when I look at those iconic photos. It wasn’t until I had to get a glass of water that I realized I was still wearing my helmet and cycling clothes and that I was chilled to the bone.
The thing is, I could turn the channel then have a hot shower and get on with my day. So many of the folks who were there will never have a normal day again. In the aftermath, thousands of young men and women fought and died or were irrevocably damaged. Where are we now? Is the world a better place?
We’re more afraid. Extremism has become an ugly norm. What can we expect for our tomorrows? And when I skim the headlines or listen to the news, I know that 9/11 has shoved all of us down a road to war, suffering and loss that may not have any palatable end.