This is something that had been on my mind for a while, and what better day to post than September 11th. Right now as with every year, it’s the usual slew of various documentaries, for example Falling Man, 9/11 Conspiracy, The 9/11 Faker. Reminding us once more of the events of the terrible day. Not that anyone who witnessed that the day would ever forget it, where you were and what you were doing is imprinted indelibly on your mind as a defining point in your life.
Standing in The Entertainer Toyshop in Uxbridge, when my friend Peter came in to tell me that the “World Trade Centre had been bombed!”
Full props to him for remembering that I was standing in a Toyshop and didn’t want to say anything more.
I was wrapped up in my own ignorance, and naturally concluded that it was just like The Docklands bombing in 1996, and almost everyone was alright. Besides it was the World Trade Centre, how much damage could be done to that building?
Harsh words in hindsight, but several hours later when I got home, I watched the highlights and saw in seconds how different the world now was. What I assumed was a simple accident, suddenly because an act of Terrorism when the second plane hit, we learned the Pentagon had been damaged by another plane, and United Airlines Flight 93 committed the ultimate act of bravery and fought back to the very end.
Almost 3000 people never made it home that night, in perhaps the most cruellest day in American history, in a moment that caused the world to suddenly stop.
That one day that changed everything, we saw how Airports tightened their security; shoes had to be removed, and everyone was a potential suspect. Buildings now had concrete barriers surrounding them…just in case.
As expected Britain joined America on “The War on Terror.” Which today still sounds like a cheesy 1950’s B-Movie title, and in retaliation of this act we are still bearing witness to the aftermath 13 years later.
I watched the first responders, fireman and everyone else trying to pick up the pieces of New York City, to try to process this terrible act, as the Towers disintegrated, in a day that gave birth to many hero’s. April 4, 1973 was the day it was officially born, it took years but here it was a beacon of progress for the City of New York, and suddenly it was gone, along with so many people. In the media, it was an establishing moment, it became part of opening credits, it became a part of films. As soon as you saw it, you know exactly where you were the same way, Big Ben (Or the Palace of Westminster, but no one ever calls it that) is used to establish London. It was familiar, ok it was a cold Skyscraper, of steel and glass but it became familiar…and then in seconds it was gone. Making everything, from 1976 to 2001 an unintentional period piece.
As time went on, and as New York began to process and learn to pick up the pieces…something London has experience with; then it became the question of what to do with the Towers, what to do about the films that came before and after. The first victim of this was The Simpson episode. “The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson”, pulled from syndication because it shows both Towers, the Plaza and the funny (at the time at least) line “They stick all the jerks in Tower One!” To this day, it’s only shown on Channel 4 after nine o’clock with a warning that some viewers may find the images distressing!
Then slowly it became much more, a repeat of Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, removed the stunning panorama when Kevin was on the observation deck. A friend of mine who lives in New York was telling me that she saw a version of Crocodile Dundee and scenes where the Towers should had stood were now empty. Both Friends and Sex and the City removed them from their opening credits, because it was too soon, because America was too raw. I’m not going to go into the mentality of this, but as a European, it bothered me. I can understand that it would be upsetting, to see something that what once, especially in New York, but removing it from the sphere pretending that it doesn’t exist…that doesn’t seem healthy. I think everyone needed to see them, focus on them and never forget they were there, not erase them from history, because to quote from Martin Scorsese when he refused to remove the WTC from Gangs of New York, because the film is about the creation of the City, not the fall
One thing I really miss is life before 9/11. I’m not going to look thorough it with a rose-tinted view because life is never as perfect as we want it to be. But it was a new Millennium, a chance to wipe the slate clean, and one year in, the world went to hell. At 21, suddenly I had to learn a bunch of new words, al-Qaeda, jihadist, Osama Bin Laden, just to name a few, and I had to face up to the reality that the childhood of my nephews, was now going to be radically altered, and they would live through one war after another. Life before, the only thing we ever had to worry about was if the IRA… Real or otherwise would be up to their usual tricks, but now this Earth inherited something much darker, and all because of those assholes.
I have never visited New York; I have never skated outside the Rockefeller Centre or gone up the Empire State…and I will never stand on the top of the World Trade Centre, but I miss the buildings because it was familiar to all of us. New York only had it for 28 years, which is nothing in terms of structures, but that’s the impact of the image, and not the demise that carried it over the world.
I know almost 3000 people died on that day, in an act that hopefully will never be repeated on American soil, and every time I watch Ghostbusters, Coming to America, Superman or even Working Girl, I get a lump in my throat when I see the Towers, and I’m glad it’s there.
In memory of the people and all their families who lost their loved ones