The lessons of September 11, 2002

On September 11, 2002, I found myself in a place as strange as Vegas. I was there to speak at a web conference. They must have gotten a good deal on the rooms, it being the first anniversary of the attacks.

“They’re holding a conference on September 11th?” I had shouted aloud on receiving my emailed invitation to speak at the show. “How could they?”

And how could I, as a New Yorker, respond to such an invitation?

But people told me if we couldn’t hold web design conferences on September 11th, then the terrorists had won. People said many stupid things back then and still do. I don’t know why I heard wisdom, or the call of duty, in this sophistry. But off I went, persuaded that I was somehow taking a stand against the people who had so grievously harmed us.

On September 10th, I gave my talk to a roomful of hungover IT professionals. On September 11th, I slouched around the conference site at Caesars Palace feeling absurd and unreal and painfully missing the woman who is now my wife. (I love you, honey.)

In New York, George Bush was laying a wreath at Ground Zero. In Las Vegas, I was lying on a sedan chair, watching the animated flag on the JumboTron outside the Bellagio. The pixelated call to patriotism felt not merely inadequate but crazily beside the point. Its 60-second cycle seemed to proclaim that our enemies may fly our planes into our buildings, but damn it, we have big-screen animation.

Many of our subsequent responses to 9/11 have felt like that giant LCD—gung-ho about the wrong things, a garish distraction to keep us from seeing and solving our real problems. But on September 11, 2002, I only knew that it was not patriotic or wise to have left my woman alone in New York City on that day.

And that JumboTrons suck.

And that I hate Vegas.

[tags]myglamorouslife, september11, 9/11, anniversary, webdesign, conferences, lasvegas[/tags]

44 thoughts on “The lessons of September 11, 2002

  1. Someday, when we’re all dead–all of us who were old enough to grasp the magnitude of loss, both personal and collective, and our kids, and their kids, and possibly one or two more generations of kids after that, I hope September 11 can be a day like any other.

    I also hope that spending that day-like-any-other as a loving and peaceful member of the world community is a reality by then, and that we’ve found a way to reverse some of the profound damage we’ve done to the earth, and that people have to check the Super Wiki of the Future to learn what the world “intolerant” means.

    But like Jeffrey, I’ve kind of resigned myself to always feeling a bit queasy on this date in my lifetime. In fact, the extensive dental work I’ll be getting this morning feels about right.

    My thoughts and best wishes are with all you good people on this sad day.

  2. Having proposed at the end of 2003, I began planning the wedding day with my wife-to-be. We were thinking about August or September, and hoping for some nice weather here in the UK.

    Venues were booked-up far in advance, but everywhere was able to offer us Saturday, September 11. We felt a bit odd about the date, and gave it some thought.

    Before we decided whether to go ahead, a nicer hotel had a slot free on the 4th. We jumped at the chance, not only because the hotel had a good feeling about it, but that we were avoiding the dark day in history.

    I’ll never forget 11th September, and I’ll never forget the 4th.

    And the weather was great too.

  3. Pure ignorance.

    New York… meet Florida.

    I read your post. I read the comments. Reflected on the notable wisdom.

    Came to the realization that, hey, today is September 11th. An entire morning went by in an office of 10 without the mention that today is September 11th. Listened to local radio on the way in. Nope… ignorance.

    Maybe its because I personally wasn’t affected by the terrorism beyond economic woes that can easily be tied to ripples created by this important day.

    Sorry. My heart goes out to you, New York.

  4. @maxCohen – Nowhere is it mentioned that New York was the only place where friends and family died that day. However, being a New Yorker, Jeffrey only spoke for himself and his feelings about “September 11th” and what affect it has on him.

    Regardless of the fact that the terrorist attack was not limited to New York, New York most definitely has the largest “visual reminder” for this date in history. The Pentagon was rebuilt. The Twin Towers were not.

  5. Many of our subsequent responses to 9/11 have felt like that giant LCD—gung-ho about the wrong things, a garish distraction to keep us from seeing and solving our real problems.

    Though I agree that kitschy shows of patriotism accomplish nothing, I’m curious about what you would have us do instead. What are our real problems, how do they relate to September 11, and what how do you mean for people to solve them?

  6. Bridget Stewart – and yet you don’t mention the 3rd place. And yes, Jeffrey is a New Yorker, but response was to comments.

  7. Sitting here at work (Pentagon) trying to get work done. It’s very somber and quit, since a lot of people that were here then take off or just because of all the issues getting into the area with the 9/11 Memorial Dedication ceremony this morning.

    No, I was not here on September 11, 2001. I have been here for the last three years doing web development and design for the Army G-1. Each year that I have been here they have a small ceremony for those that were lost etc. That I plan on attending later this afternoon.

    You get a little bit of a different perspective on what has happened after 9/11 by being here. There are soldiers here that been overseas before to participate in the war. There have been at least about a half a dozen or so soldiers that I have had to work with or sit near me that have gone over to do their duty while I have been here. As far as I have known all have come back fine.

    Had a ticket for the big ceremony outside this morning and decided not to attend, but plan on using one of the timed tickets a co-worker got to see the new memorial right after work before it is opened to the public later this evening.

    It just seems weird to be here, since some friends that I talk to have already started considering it just another day. For me I hope it never becomes just another day.

  8. My father died at the World Trade Center on September 11th. Each year gets a bit easier and life seems more “normal” for my mom, my brothers and myself. But it’s amazing how I start to feel a bit off every year, starting around mid-August. Memories of what we went through start flooding back — “missing” flyers we drew up to post at NYC hospitals days after it happened, going through his files to see what bills needed to be paid, quitting a good job in California and moving back in with my mom… These details are always with me, but like clockwork they come to the surface around this time of year.

    I’ve taken this day off of work every year since it happened. Sometimes I feel bad about that and think I should just let it be like any other day, but it’s not, and never will be. At least not for me.

  9. I lived in Florida at the time, and attended a conference the following month convincing myself “the terrorists had won” if I didn’t go. I couldn’t look down as we flew over the financial district, and to this day I still never look down.

    I think it’s not only because of the weight of what occurred there, but the weight I was carrying myself the day it happened. A lot of people lost family members in that tragedy, and I lost my own family at the very same time due to my own mistakes.

    I actually wrote about it today on my blog, for the very first time in seven years.

    I think I will start looking at today’s date as an anniversary. An anniversary of letting go of what I’ve held onto for the last seven years, and recognizing that just because you can’t go back doesn’t mean you can’t go forward.

    I hope that we can all do that, as a nation, soon. I feel like we’ve all been perpetually living in our mistakes of the last seven years.

  10. Thanks for this. I have a good friend who lost a cousin on one of the planes. Said friend is marrying her girlfriend today (you can do stuff like that in California now!) and at first I thought, ‘that’s crazy!’ But now, I understand it’s her way of collocating a devastating memory with a sweet one.

  11. @maxCohen – The plane that crashed into a field in Stonycreek Township, PA is the one that occurred closest to me, considering I live in Ohio. No, it’s not like it was in my backyard, but it was only one state away. It FELT close to home as I sat glued to my television set watching in disbelief as events unfolded on that day.

    What would be really nice is if you could read the words presented to you instead of inserting meaning where some may not be intended, such as a lack of respect to any of the “strike zones” that came to be one way or another. Stop reading “between the lines” and just take the statements at face value.

    The face value you should have taken away from my response was in regard to the VISUAL reminders of the day. Via television I saw the damage at the Pentagon. I also saw the twisted metal and smoke in Pennsylvania. But anyone who watched TV that day received the most *visuals* due to what was taking place in New York. I watched people throw themselves from dozens of stories above the ground while it took the towers to crumble. I watched this FOR HOURS. Not because I’m sort of ghoul fascinated by gore, but because I couldn’t really believe what was happening, much like the rest of the nation.

    I don’t believe for a second that New Yorkers believe they have the corner market on “9-11″ experience. Frankly, if you look around, you’ll see that other countries that are NOT the USA are also recalling what today’s date represents and what it meant for THEM.

    This is the last I will say on the subject, maxCohen. It’s a shame that it needed saying in the first place. Remove the chip from your shoulder. Not everything is a conspiracy nor an oversight.

  12. I was out of town on a business trip when 9/11 occurred and had to rent a car to drive home from St. Louis. I don’t have a real single memory that sticks in my mind other than the complete despair I had about how little people have learned over the last 50 years. But for me the tragedy of my lifetime was the Kennedy assassination. And for Tristan, those who went through Pearl Harbor didn’t give the anniversary much thought. They were too busy worrying about loved ones who were already in the service or wondering what would happen to them and the country over the next few years. Part of the problem is that most of us are so removed from anything that happens anywhere in the world that while it seems very real (due to news coverage) it somehow doesn’t seem real in terms of our lives. Everything is virtual now, including our relationship with the world.

    I celebrated the anniversary today by taking my 88 year old mother grocery shopping. The store where we went had a minute of silence but somehow I missed hearing it over the loud speakers and I didn’t see anyone else notice it either. I guess I sort of wish the day would go away. And I feel guilty about that.

  13. guys – conservative estimates say over 1 million people have been killed in iraq since 9/11 – say it slowly – ONE MILLION PEOPLE.

    Just because it has happened over a longer time frame doesnt make it any less significant – how many stop to think about or reflect on that ? these pepole are somebodys brother, sister and family too.

  14. Yesterday I went to work like any other day. I remembered 9/11
    by saying a short prayer. I love NYC, the culture and its people.
    I longed to be at the WTC site. Sounds funny but every time I’m in NYC I can feel the cities soul. I too hate Vegas.

    It is important that we carry on Jeffrey. You see, they want to affect us. They want us to live in fear by pressing any button that creates a sensory response.

    Maybe we should use 9/11 as a day of resolution. A day when we come together as people of a world community to fight terrorism and the hate and fear it spawns. Who is organizing that?

    So fuck them. I went to work. I picked up my daughter in Chicago got home around 11am. We laughed and talked almost the entire trip. It was a long day full of life, smiles, and laughter.

    I laughed because it mattered. I had a 19 hour day because it mattered. I lived my life to the fullest yesterday because it mattered. I did all of this because yesterday I fought terrorism and won.

    I not only mourned but I celebrated life

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