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9/11 from space
September 11, 2012 10:00 AM   Subscribe

"It's horrible to see smoke pouring from wounds in your own country from such a fantastic vantage point." Astronaut Frank Culbertson's reflections as he orbited the Earth on Sept. 11th, 2001.
posted by Brandon Blatcher (76 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
Thanks for that. A friend of mine posted this morning about how the second plane few directly over his head.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:09 AM on September 11, 2012


Wow, that photo is haunting as hell. I lived in a part of Brooklyn where the smoke trailed from horizon to horizon (or, well, at least as far as I could see over the buildings.) Thinking back, it did look like an enormous wound, splitting the sky in half.
posted by griphus at 10:09 AM on September 11, 2012


Perennial 9/11 must-sees:

Jon Stewart's monologue when The Daily Show came back

The Onion is eerily prescient
posted by zombieflanders at 10:11 AM on September 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


One of the worst parts of the day was the smell of the smoke. I've never smelled anything like it, and I hope I never will.
posted by angrycat at 10:11 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I hate that 9/11 is what I think of on a sunny late summer day like today.
posted by dry white toast at 10:16 AM on September 11, 2012 [14 favorites]


One of the worst parts of the day was the smell of the smoke. I've never smelled anything like it, and I hope I never will.
posted by angrycat


And it went on and on and on. Since the school where I taught at the time is only a handful of blocks away from the WTC on Greenwich St, we breathed in that unreal stench for a very long time. I haven't been able to take a decent breath since.
posted by blaneyphoto at 10:20 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not sure how I'm gonna feel when, 20 years from now, people greet each other on September 11th saying "Happy Patriot Day!"
posted by etc. at 10:21 AM on September 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


Maybe not in 20, but certainly in 50 years it will be about as relevant as December 7, 1941.

(Cue everyone under the age of 30 pasting that day into Wikipedia.)
posted by griphus at 10:22 AM on September 11, 2012 [9 favorites]


Not sure how I'm gonna feel when, 20 years from now, people greet each other on September 11th saying "Happy Patriot Day!"

That's easy: just punch them in the face.
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:23 AM on September 11, 2012 [23 favorites]


Since the school where I taught at the time is only a handful of blocks away from the WTC on Greenwich St, we breathed in that unreal stench for a very long time. I haven't been able to take a decent breath since.

A friend of mine was one of the clean up crew people who came in afterwards to start moving debris...she has since developed severe respiratory issues, and she's a young woman who never smoked.

Sad day. Not much else I can say about it.
posted by emjaybee at 10:23 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


[Folks if you have issues with how a giant website has made a single post on a topic you do not want to read a post about today, please either flag and move on or go to MetaTalk. I know this is a touchy subject for people but it's not okay to crap in other people's posts because you think the topic shouldn't be talked about or because of your personal "I don't like this" feelings.]
posted by jessamyn at 10:24 AM on September 11, 2012 [11 favorites]


What an amazing document that journal is. "Tears don't flow the same in space."
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:27 AM on September 11, 2012


I may have said this here somewhere before but I had a college class that morning and, being in college, I'd gotten up about thirteen seconds before class started so I had no idea of anything happening in the world. I got to class and the professor said 'In case any of you don't know what's going on' and he switched on the teevee in the corner of the room. Only the first tower had been hit at that point and the news was still talking about it like it was some kind of horrific accident and I looked at that huge gaping hole in the side of the building with smoke tumbling out of it and I swear to God my first thought was 'That's going to take forever to fix!'

He turned off the teevee and we had class and when I got back out into the day both towers had fallen.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:29 AM on September 11, 2012


I'll be extremely upset if the Patriots Day thing catches on, but really because that name is already spoken for. It's the third Monday in April. That's the day of the Boston Marathon, and in Massachusetts they call it Patriot's Day so that you can take the day off and go see the earliest starting MLB game of the year.

And I was in New York on 9/11 and, yes, the smell of the smoke is one of the strongest memories for me and, although it pains me to say it because in context it sounds awful in a way I really really don't mean, it smelled like a trash fire.
posted by dirtdirt at 10:30 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Actually, I take my note to briank back.

This is still a pretty complicated day for a lot of us, because it is pretty recent (comparatively) and we also have such a wide range of experiences of it - and, we all cope differently. Some people do need to talk. Some need to remember. And even here, you have some people who need to talk about the smell of the smoke, while some people need to talk about how surreal it was that their daughter was smelling the smoke in New York, at the same time it was a perfectly ordinary day in Massachusetts. (That was my Mom - she told me recently that her most enduring memory of 9/11 was going to the hair salon like she had planned all along for that day, and talking about it with the hairdresser, simply because it was so surreal to know this was happening and be so removed from it and she didn't know what else TO do.)

For the first time ever, this has pretty much been a non-event for me, and BOY am I glad about that. But I did ask this of my friends on Facebook last night, and explained why there -- at some point, in the middle of whatever you do to observe or NOT observe 9/11, take the hand of someone you love and dance to "Fisherman's Blues" by The Waterboys, because that's all about the joy that comes of having lived through some hard shit that's made you stronger, and you know you still have a long way to go but you're tough and you're gonna make it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:30 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Astronauts really do tend to become deeply reflective. A book called The Home planet has some great quotations from many of them. Here is one that I particularly like:
After eighteen days of a space mission I was convinced that all visible space—the black emptiness, the white, unblinking stars and planets—was lifeless. The thought that life and humankind might be unique in the endless universe depressed me and brought melancholy upon me, and yet at the same time compelled me to evaluate everything differently.

Nature has been limitlessly kind to us, having helped humankind appear, stand up, and grow stronger. She has generously given us everything she has amassed over the billions of years of inanimate development. We have grown strong and powerful, yet how have we answered this goodness?--Cosmonaut Yuri Glazkov
We must learn to do things better around here.
posted by No Robots at 10:30 AM on September 11, 2012 [16 favorites]


Was reminded today of the "Tribute to Heroes" concert after September 11, and of Bruce's haunting My City of Ruins.

Now there's tears on the pillow
Darlin' where we slept
And you took my heart when you left
Without your sweet kiss
My soul is lost, my friend
Tell me how do I begin again?

posted by wemayfreeze at 10:36 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


The thing that impressed upon my consciousness, at my great remove in Texas, was the eerie silence from all the planes being grounded. I worked pretty much under an approach to a runway, so all day every day for the previous three years, a jet had passed over at 1000-2000 feet every 4 or 5 minutes. When they stopped flying, the silence was oppressive. Then when they started flying agin, all I could see when I looked up at a plane was my memory of them slamming into the towers. Over and over.

I think it was the better part of 5 years before I looked at a passenger jet in flight without seeing that in my mind.

I went through one of those idiot porno scanners for the first time ever this summer, and caught grief because I had cash in my pants pocket and didn't get the memo that EVERYTHING had to come out of the pants. They lectured me and swabbed my hands for traces of explosives, during the whole of which, my mind was just racing "okay, what chemicals have I handled that could turn up a false positive, and what becomes of me if jerkbag here is having a bad day?" I felt helpless, and I hate those Al Queda bastard for what they've done to us in the long term as much as I hate them for what they did to the innocent people in New York that day.

I don't reflect publicly on this stuff much because I'm not much of a patriot, but I miss the America that we were before.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:37 AM on September 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


...although it pains me to say it because in context it sounds awful in a way I really really don't mean, it smelled like a trash fire.

Well, if it helps, I know how you feel. There was a lot of paper in those buildings, and I think that's what much of the smell was (at least by the time it got out to my neighborhood.) I found it rather familiar because as teenagers, we'd regularly have fires on the beach and burn, among other things, our schoolbooks and notes. It was the same smell.
posted by griphus at 10:37 AM on September 11, 2012


(For the record, my use of Patriot Day in another thread to describe today was ironic and I'd be mortified if it seemed otherwise.)

There's something stunning about that picture -- it's hard to find the right word for it because there's a beauty in it but you wouldn't call it 'beautiful'; I guess 'haunting' does capture it, but it's more than that. I guess it's because it's showing how huge and horrible it is, but it's removed from the actual event such that it isn't horrifying as something up close. Words fail, which, again, seems appropriate to the situation.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:39 AM on September 11, 2012


I think it was the better part of 5 years before I looked at a passenger jet in flight without seeing that in my mind.

Manhattanite here; I still look up.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:40 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Metafilter was really important to me on Sept. 11, 2001 and the ensuing days. This site had far better news and commentary than anywhere else. My son is a soldier in Afghanistan because of this event. Many of us have a specific personal connection; some don't, but for MeFites in the US, it's a day when our country was attacked by terrorists. I hate the reference to "9-11" because it obscures that fact, and gives it a tidy label that sounds too much like 7-11. It's the day that made the Patriot Act, and the re-election of Bush Cheney, and the manufactured war in Iraq, and so much more evil, possible.

I think this is an ideal post for today; thank you.
posted by theora55 at 10:40 AM on September 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


I find it interesting ... the "our country" thing. It seems a bit strange to see that in comparison to like, say, Neil Armstrong and the early astronauts talking about the religious experience of unity of all humanity and the cosmic sense that happens, and yet...

I dunno - it was a bit disappointing to see one more confirmation of nationalism happening from someone who was supposed to be above it all, to see the big picture, and yet there he was.

That doesn't mean empathy shoudln't exist. My heart goes out to all those affected then, and still affected (as many in this thread point out, they either have or know people who are having breathing issues, even now)...

I just ... It's such a complex set of emotions that I feel when thinking about it.

Still, what an amazing picture to see it from up there. How tiny it all is and yet how so visceral and real it is on the ground.
posted by symbioid at 10:41 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


the "freedom tower" decorated red white and blue last night.

The worst part, for me, was the thousands of people walking uptown covered in ash. All those people covered in ash made it look like a biblical level apocalypse. Also APCs outside the UN, thats when I got a bit worried about the future.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:45 AM on September 11, 2012


Sept. 11, 2002 stood out most for me.

I was in Saudi Arabia, in a grocery store and saw an old Saudi man in traditional Arabic attire in line behind a Western family with a blond-haired boy who was about 4. The little guy was looking around, checking out the Saudi man... who knelt down and talked to the boy. I could see that the man was full of smiles and the boy responded in kind. The boy's family moved forward in the line and the Saudi man extended his hand and the boy shook it.

Probably would seemed over-the-top in a made-for-TV movie, but there it was, in Khobar, Saudi Arabia.

That little thing did me well on that day, and on others.
posted by ambient2 at 10:51 AM on September 11, 2012 [8 favorites]


(Cue everyone under the age of 30 pasting that day into Wikipedia.)

The day the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Surely you can't be serious.
posted by yoink at 10:58 AM on September 11, 2012 [9 favorites]



I remember that day, and how I gradually became numbed by the dawning realizations that rippled from those terrible images. The days that followed were hollow. One morning a week or more later, I saw images on the internet: people in several countries placing flowers along the walls around our embassies, tears flowing from their faces. That's when, finally, I was able to weep.
posted by mule98J at 11:00 AM on September 11, 2012


I dunno - it was a bit disappointing to see one more confirmation of nationalism happening from someone who was supposed to be above it all, to see the big picture, and yet there he was.

Just FYI, that someone was a US Naval officer and one his classmates was a pilot of the plane that struck the Pentagon.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:02 AM on September 11, 2012 [9 favorites]


Worked in a short building half a mile from an airport. Crazy quiet when the planes were gone. Freaky when they came back, but it was hard working there before 9/11 because of a plane-related panic "normal" for me.

Phones didn't work out of new york, but people who still had internet sent messages to me and I phoned home for them, giving them their friend/family "I'm at [xyz] and I'm okay" messages and returning same.
posted by tilde at 11:14 AM on September 11, 2012


A friend of mine was one of the clean up crew people who came in afterwards to start moving debris...she has since developed severe respiratory issues, and she's a young woman who never smoked.

Here's hoping your friend is getting proper medical care. The US government is finally expanding its health care coverage for the first responders, a long-overdue decision.

In our offices some blocks away, we had the air systems thoroughly cleaned and inspected but kept the windows shut for months. A stench something between a chemical plant fire and a charnel house permeated the neighborhood for a long time.
posted by Doktor Zed at 11:14 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


The day the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Surely you can't be serious.

I know you're joking, but September 11 somehow became when Iraq attacked the US, so this isn't too far off...
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 11:14 AM on September 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


This link could probably stand on its own, but in an effort to keep 9/11 posts in one place, here's the story of Rick Rescorla, the head of security who predicted the '93 bombing and drew up plans to evacuate the WTC in event of airplane attack.
”I’m evacuating right now,” Rescorla said.
Hill could hear Rescorla issuing orders through the bullhorn. He was calm and collected, never raising his voice. Then Hill heard him break into song:
Men of Cornwall stop your dreaming;
Can’t you see their spearpoints gleaming?
See their warriors’ pennants streaming
To this battlefield.
Men of Cornwall stand ye steady;
It cannot be ever said ye
for the battle were not ready;
Stand and never yield!


...

[He] kept singing or speaking reassuringly. “Slow down, pace yourself,” he told one group. “Today is a day to be proud to be an American.”

-The Real Heroes Are Dead. A love story.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 11:21 AM on September 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


The Onion today - 18 Year-Old Fighting in Afghanistan Has 9/11 Explained to Him by Older Soldier

The Onion, Geez.

Also from @AdamSchefter: Think of all those who lost loved ones, and imagine the worst day of your life being commemorated so publicly every year, over and over.
posted by dry white toast at 11:30 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Think of all those who lost loved ones, and imagine the worst day of your life being commemorated so publicly every year, over and over.

The problem with this logic is that we (as a society, not as individuals) can either commemorate it or not. There's no middle ground because we can't exactly have a national Maybe You Want To Check The Calendar Real Quick But If Not That's Cool Day. If 9/11 wasn't publicly commemorated, there'd be an equally justifiable "can you believe how disrespectful we are just going about as if it never happened?" tweet.
posted by griphus at 11:35 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]



The day the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Surely you can't be serious.
posted by yoink at 1:58 PM on September 11 [+] [!]

I am, and please don't call me Shirley.

At first many of us thought "an accident." Later, after the 2nd strike, we huddled in the conference room of a 37 story building which overlooks Logan airport. Many of us wishing we weren't there.
posted by Gungho at 11:39 AM on September 11, 2012


griphus, I should point out that that Tweeter is married to a woman who lost her first husband in 9/11 and is raising that man's son. I hear what you're saying, but it just makes me wonder if the way its commemorated now is more about prominent people genuflecting for public consumption, rather than putting the families of the victims first. I remember the torrent of stories last year about families dreading the 10th anniversary.

I dunno. I don't pretend its an easy thing to manage in any case.
posted by dry white toast at 11:41 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


If 9/11 wasn't publicly commemorated, there'd be an equally justifiable "can you believe how disrespectful we are just going about as if it never happened?" tweet.

* snerk * A couple years ago I laid a righteous smackdown on someone on Facebook for something like that. A handful of the people on my Facebook feed are people I went to high school with, back in Connecticut; a couple years back, it was about two-thirds through the day when one finally posted "Never forget" as her status update. I just sort of sighed and moved on.

But then someone else I went to school with commented on that. At length. And her comment was about gee, how Interesting it was that this was the first Facebook status update she'd seen about 9/11 and how interesting so few people seemed to be remembering it - why, she had gotten her kids up in time for early morning mass and dressed them up in red white and blue, so she and her family certainly hadn't forgotten, and.... and on and on with the kind of talk that made me realize long ago that sometimes when people say "never forget" what they're really saying is "look at how much more of a patriot I am than you are".

I responded with a direct address: "J, I lived less than a mile from the Towers on that date and I heard the impact of both planes as they hit. The city smelled like smoke for a solid three months afterward. Trying to forget some of the things I saw at that time is the only way I have been able to stay sane."

About 20 people chimed in after that, all of them saying "I can't even imagine what that must have been like." And then - everyone left me alone about 9/11 for the rest of the day, which is exactly the way I wanted it.

I don't like pulling the "I was there and you have no idea" card, but there are some people who really, really deserve it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:48 AM on September 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


The Onion is so on a roll today. It's the only thing that's saved me from screaming at my Facebook feed today. I've saw that 9-11 commemorations were already making the rounds on the big news networks over the weekend. It's being made a bigger deal of this year, like we're preparing to make it a federal maudlin holiday. Time to haul out the fresh satire.
posted by raysmj at 11:59 AM on September 11, 2012


At first many of us thought "an accident."

My mother was working in Manhattan Psychiatric when it happened. The first person to report it was a patient who was immediately shrugged off.
posted by griphus at 12:05 PM on September 11, 2012


We had smoke in DC, too.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:16 PM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


My in-laws live in upstate NY, and when I visit them, I drive on I-80 through Illinois, Indiana, Ohio. It's a 14-hour drive in all, much of it through parts of the country lacking in scenery. When my wife and I make the drive, we leave early in the morning, but inevitably the beautiful parts in PA and NY are dark by the time we get there.

Instead of looking at natural features, I try to pick out unusual road names (Fangboner Rd in central Ohio) and other unusual amusements (like the RV and MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Indiana).

Along the Indian Turnpike, there are these DOT Maintenance Buildings in each county. They park and service plows there, and State Police camp out there. The winter salt is kept in a barn.

In front of two of these DOT buildings, there are commemorative plow blades. One has a bald eagle head painted on one edge, and on the other the words "Awakening the Giant". The other blade has the World Trade Center painted in front of the US flag. Both are painted in a crude but effective manner.

I think it's easy to point and laugh and reduce the rural people who were moved to these tributes. My impulse when I see these is to cringe. But then this day comes around, and even though I was stuck in a cube in Wisconsin when the plans hit, I felt the grief and the horror.

Every year I get reflective on this day, and hearing of a movement to make it so-called "Patriot Day" makes me cringe like those plow blades; but then I remember that we all grieve in our own ways. Some need to talk it out, some need to keep it in, some need to remember, and some need to forget. Some need only to sit silently for a few moments and recall the chaos of that morning, some are moved to paint a plow blade and display it, so that maybe a stranger from another state will know 9-11 touched everyone.
posted by rocketman at 12:19 PM on September 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


I hate the reference to "9-11" because it obscures that fact, and gives it a tidy label that sounds too much like 7-11. It's the day that made the Patriot Act, and the re-election of Bush Cheney, and the manufactured war in Iraq, and so much more evil, possible.

I have no personal connection to victims of the attack or their friends or family. I have not visited New York City but twice in my life, once when I was around seven on a family trip (we visited the Empire State Building, not the World Trade Center towers) and a quick excursion after a multiple hour drive up to see the Yankees play on their new field.

With the passing of time, without any personal tragic threads to bind me to the past, the above quoted is how I increasingly reflect on the date, September 11th. I suppose in further time, it will simply be that tragedy which ended one century and started another, not unlike the Guns of August.

Along the lines of 'Patriot Day' there is a flyer up on our refrigerator at work. In short, it encourages everyone to let soldiers and any uniformed police, firemen, etc to cut in line or to go ahead of the reader today.

For the photograph, it's an interesting contrast that something actually miniscule in the image could have such wide reaching ramifications.
posted by Atreides at 12:27 PM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is the only 9/11-related thing I've seen today that didn't make me cringe. Thanks for sharing it, Brandon.

(I lived on Broome and Center at the time, about a mile north of the WTC. I watched the second tower fall from my bedroom window. There isn't much else to say.)
posted by Narrative Priorities at 12:37 PM on September 11, 2012


The Deafness Before the Storm
posted by homunculus at 12:41 PM on September 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


I got an IM at work at maybe 8:55? Aw, some poor sonovabitch in his Cessna. I thought, Can you imagine, you're going into work and a damn plane crashes through your window? Oh, god, those poor people in that office.

Then the 2nd one hit and the receptionist and I shrieked at each other, "IT'S TERRORISTS!"

I remember my office going into mayhem as the VO of Sales ran in and screamed, "There was a plane right above my car! What happened, what happened?"

Then I went outside just in time to look down 6th Ave and West 18th and see the north tower fall. I've never seen a building fall so fast. And there were people I knew in a business capacity in there, Jay Magazine and Jackie Sayegh Duggan from Windows on the World. Such sweet people, the both of them. Gone like that, with no chance of survival.

A few days later I was in the Red Cross respite center in the only possible building down there, the Marriott, feeling, seeing and smelling the horror. The responders and rescuers were now recoverers, and the pall that cast left a lot of people in despair. There was a room on the ground floor where there were over a hundred recliners set up for the recovery teams to rest between shifts. One firefighter I was attending to there with a blanket and pillow took my hand and wouldn't let go of it. He told me, "If I fall asleep, I'm back in it. I can't go to sleep. If you hold my hand, then I won't fall asleep." But I couldn't stop this tired hero from nodding off.

To know that this event was used to subsequently propagate the deaths of thousands more makes me sick.
posted by droplet at 12:45 PM on September 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


I hate that 9/11 is what I think of on a sunny late summer day like today.

Where I was it was gray, rainy, and oppressively humid. The silence, the way everyone moved through that day in slow-motion, almost, is what I still remember most. I wrote about the name "Patriot Day" ten years ago and my feelings haven't changed since.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:58 PM on September 11, 2012


I was in a hospital waiting room, waiting for my wife to come out of surgery. The TV network kept a camera on the first tower, periodically showing a replay of the plane hitting it. When the second plane hit, none of the news people noticed at first, and a lot of people in the waiting room didn't either. It was horrifying.

When my wife got out of surgery, she could see from my face that something was wrong, and I had to tell her right away what had happened, so she wouldn't think it was about the surgery. It was really hard to tell her. We both wept.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:00 PM on September 11, 2012


I think it's easy to point and laugh and reduce the rural people who were moved to these tributes. My impulse when I see these is to cringe. But then this day comes around, and even though I was stuck in a cube in Wisconsin when the plans hit, I felt the grief and the horror.

Y'know, this difference between "how the directly-affected processed it" and "how the rest of the country processed it" was one of the hardest things for me to get around. I was really, really touchy about it for a long time; the first couple years I found that whenever my parents or relatives or whatever introduced me to someone, and then they found out that I lived in New York, they'd make some small talk, and then...invariably, they'd get this sort of look on their face and they'd ask, "so....how was it on 9/11?" I'd always respond politely, but my inner hackles were always way, way up, bristling at people treating that day as a topic for small talk. After a while whenever people learned I was from New York, my teeth would automatically clench because I knew it was coming.

And then a few years after that I was hanging around the old Television Without Pity boards, and I threw a couple temper tantrums on one of their discussion threads - "the saddest thing you ever saw on TV." Most of it would be taken up with things like "the day Buffy's mom died" or "the day Ross and Rachel broke up" or whatever. And then sure enough, someone would mention "watching the Towers fall". And at some point I would just lose it in the thread, saying that for god's sake, 9/11 was a real thing for many of us, and not a TV moment, and it was a little different than something like Mulder's mom dying or whatever, and that calling it "a tv moment" was an insult because TV moments are something you can turn off, and god-dammit I couldn't turn the TV off on something that had been outside my god-dammed window for a solid four months and....

....And then, eventually, I realized that that was just it. For the majority of the people in this country, 9/11 was a TV moment. It was something you could turn the TV off on and walk out the door and get away from. And yes, I was one of the people who couldn't do that, and my experience was very different, but most of the people didn't experience it the same way I did, and there was no way for them to understand that there was that kind of a difference. And there was nothing to be done about it. It wasn't a good or bad thing, either -- my being an eyewitness to it didn't make me more noble or anythng either, or more unlucky. Just different. A friend of mine had an observation once that maybe the only people who really understand what it was like to have been living in New York on 9/11 are the people who were living in New Orleans during Katrina, or the people who were in Aurora during the movie theater shooting, or the people in Littleton during the Columbine high school incident - it is just plain weird when everyone else in the country knows about something that happened to you right at first hand, but them knowing about it doesn't mean that they get it in the same way you do. And there really is nothing to be done about it.

There's still some occasional weird moments I run into (my brother came to visit the city with his family recently, and asked if I thought that the 9/11 memorial would be something my toddler niece and infant nephew would "get", and I'm still kind of bewildered about that), but I roll with them a lot better now, because things are just as weird for them and they're trying to process it too; my mother told me once about how weird it felt to hear me call and tell her what was happening in New York, and then to hang up and walk outside into a totally normal day on Cape Cod. There was this helpless feeling that she should somehow be doing something, but wasn't sure what.

These days my ire is really only for the people who are exploiting 9/11 for their own gain, either to make a political point, to make a buck, or to somehow use it to prove their own superiority. Because that's just plain selfish.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:02 PM on September 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


Devils Rancher: I felt helpless, and I hate those Al Queda bastard for what they've done to us in the long term as much as I hate them for what they did to the innocent people in New York that day.
Al Qaeda is 100% to blame for the slaughter that day, but we - the US people and our elected government - are 100% responsible for how we've reacted.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:08 PM on September 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


symbioid: I dunno - it was a bit disappointing to see one more confirmation of nationalism happening from someone who was supposed to be above it all, to see the big picture, and yet there he was.
Imagine your home town being decimated by a tornado. Attempt to describe seeing familiar faces weeping on the TV news, without saying to others, "That's my town."

Imagine members of your family being cut down by a drunk drive. Is it unreasonable to describe the victims as "my family"?

It isn't nationalism. It's inclusion - describing the smallest group that includes the speaker and the victims.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:13 PM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


For the majority of the people in this country, 9/11 was a TV moment. It was something you could turn the TV off on and walk out the door and get away from.

Not really, no. I was in California--nothing that happened on that day affected me personally (well, travel plans changing and that kind of stuff, but no loved ones dying or personal witnessing of the events or what have you). But that didn't mean that you turned the TV off and it was as if nothing had happened--or that you were only affected by it in the same way that you would be affected by a TV program. It was a profoundly shocking--and, in its way, traumatizing--experience to live through even if one wasn't actually living in the shadow of the towers.
posted by yoink at 1:22 PM on September 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


MrMoonPie: We had smoke in DC, too.
Yes, NYC, WDC, and a field near Shanksville, PA all had smoke.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:23 PM on September 11, 2012


For the majority of the people in this country, 9/11 was a TV moment. It was something you could turn the TV off on and walk out the door and get away from.

We could turn off the TV and walk away, for sure. But we couldn't get away from it. At least, it didn't feel like I could get away from it.
posted by rocketman at 1:27 PM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


I suppose this is the right place to link this Megan Amram essay, Anniversary, and quote a bit, because I think it's good and people might enjoy reading it today...
We are coming of age in a culture not of un-enjoyment, but of anti-enjoyment. Passion is not just superfluous – passion is weakness. If you like things, you might like the wrong things, and then you’re WRONG with a capital “DOUBLE-U” with a capital “D”, and then you’re BAD and ugly and FAT and SUPER FAT. The Internet can’t figure out whether it wants to beatify things or damn them, so it just gets all sorts of contentious.
[...]
To participate in this chic backlash against passion is to have a small mind. In my humble, unimportant, normal-sized opinion, it is better to have a small BRAIN than a small MIND. If you have a small brain, you can still be a good, kind, hard-working, dumb person who can manage some sort of farm or daycare. If you have a small mind, however, you very well might hurt people with it.
posted by hap_hazard at 1:28 PM on September 11, 2012


Slate is running a pretty amazing and intense account from a guy who was in WTC 2 when it was hit, and got out alive. It's good, but - it almost goes without saying - kind of tough to read.
posted by COBRA! at 1:34 PM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


But that didn't mean that you turned the TV off and it was as if nothing had happened--or that you were only affected by it in the same way that you would be affected by a TV program. It was a profoundly shocking--and, in its way, traumatizing--experience to live through even if one wasn't actually living in the shadow of the towers.

No, I agree that the emotional impact was very real.

What I'm getting at is, there's a difference between carrying around your own emotional reaction, and having your emotional reaction get reinforced by having smoke in the air around you for a solid three months and walking by a score of missing-person-please-help posters on every flat vertical surface you saw every day.

I am absolutely not denying it wasn't traumatizing. Only pointing out that having that trauma persistently renewed by your very surroundings is kind of a mindfuck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:36 PM on September 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Or, rather, that it is a different KIND of mindfuck. Just as knowing it's happening and then going outside into a perfectly normal looking day is still ANOTHER kind of mindfuck.

We all got mindfucked. It just took me a while to understand that our mindfucks were a little different.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:38 PM on September 11, 2012


my mother told me once about how weird it felt to hear me call and tell her what was happening in New York, and then to hang up and walk outside into a totally normal day on Cape Cod. There was this helpless feeling that she should somehow be doing something, but wasn't sure what.

The best article in The Onion's 9/11 issue is probably God Angrily Clarifies Don't Kill Rule but Not Knowing What To Do, Woman Bakes American Flag Cake might be the most understatedly poignant, capturing something a lot of us (those who weren't at the epicenters, anyway) felt.
posted by kmz at 1:42 PM on September 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Just as knowing it's happening and then going outside into a perfectly normal looking day is still ANOTHER kind of mindfuck.

Indeed. And that, by the way, is a lot of what would have driven people who weren't in NYC to feel the need to ask about your personal experiences of the day and of the aftermath. I think far from seeing this as "small talk" it would arise much more from a profound desire bridge that weird gap we all experienced--of feeling as though we were in some ways all living in downtown NY during those days, but of knowing that as soon as we walked out the door everything looked shockingly normal. I don't think most people would have been looking for amusing anecdotes about your interesting adventures--they wanted testimony, witnessing: a sense of personal connection, even if vicarious, to a deeply destabilizing but radically mediated event.

Not, of course, that it was your responsibility to provide that if you didn't feel up to it; but don't be too quick to impugn the motives of those asking for it.
posted by yoink at 1:50 PM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yoink, in case it wasn't clear, I no longer DO impugn the motives of people who do it. I was speaking of my state of mind 8 or 9 years ago, a state which I have since moved well past.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:53 PM on September 11, 2012


This got linked somewhere else. It would never have happened, but I love Ebert's idea for a memorial: Make It Green. (Written 3 days after the attacks.)
posted by kmz at 1:59 PM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thanks for readdressing your "was-there vs saw-it-on-TV" comments, EmpressCallipygos. Well worded, and I now can really see your point.

Also glad you've moved beyond that aggressive/defensive point - it's like hearing someone lost their spouse to cancer, in a way. Maybe the listener has, too, but they want to connect with someone who clearly suffered close to this particular event, to empathetically share in life's burdens.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:03 PM on September 11, 2012


Ebert's idea for a memorial: Make It Green. (Written 3 days after the attacks.)

I can't believe I had never seen that before. That is one of the most touching things I've ever read in regards to this tragedy, thanks for sharing it again.
posted by King Bee at 2:05 PM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


hap_hazard: Anyone who fails to get into the 11th anniversary orgy of the maudlin is a cynic? Is that the implication? I'm fine with the VP making a thoughtful and subtle speech in Pennsylvania about this, given that he's a top elected officials and this involved the government so closely, as well as the nation. And then I'm fine with his not going on and on and on about it. Otherwise, I find many of the memorials to be wallowing and kitschy. And given how much death and torture resulted from all this, I think a backlash and mockery are most welcome, the least all this deserves.
posted by raysmj at 2:10 PM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


^ raysmj- NOPE! At least I don't think so. It's more about something like how kids (she was in 8th grade in 2001) seem to have reacted to growing up in the shadow of the event w/ a fear of caring about anything very much, because it could all be taken away. I think that the piece itself, which maybe isn't even about what the quoted sections seem to indicate, is just pro-giving-a-fuck. So, not sure if it's on point for this thread exactly- certainly not intended to comment on the experiences of anyone here, who was directly affected. But I found it moving.
posted by hap_hazard at 2:35 PM on September 11, 2012


I'm just so terribly grateful for everyone on facebook reminding me to remember, sharing videos and poorly photoshopped towers images with me, and imploring me to never forget. Because of course I would probably have forgotten without all those helpful reminders.
posted by headnsouth at 2:37 PM on September 11, 2012


For comparison of how much impact these anniversaries have for people born after the fact, consider that the 100th anniversary of the start of The Great War is coming up soon. WWI was one of the most traumatic events in world history (in some ways even more so than the second war) and destroyed entire generations. How much thought will most people give to it when the anniversary happens? None is my impression. I assume it will be a bigger deal in Europe.

The same will be true of 9/11 in 50 years or so. Maybe a bit longer. In one respect that may be unfortunate. But it is also how things progress and heal and move on.
posted by Justinian at 2:45 PM on September 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


Students today (not in NYC; I've moved since) kept asking me what date it was. I'm not gonna be all 'NEVAR FORGET' so I wasn't all sadly, '9/11,' so I said it in the chirpy voice I use when something is kind of annoying me. Chirping, 'oh, it's 9/11' about 15 times felt really, really weird.
posted by angrycat at 2:53 PM on September 11, 2012


I was up here in Ottawa, very far removed. But it just so happened that I was attending my first work conference as a freshly minted employee (less than 6 months) of Canada Customs. To hear one of the most senior Customs guys walk into the room after his initial briefing and say "The border is closed" was the part that hit me the most. That just didn't seem like a thing that could happen. Ever. Having the American-Canadian border *closed*.
posted by aclevername at 3:00 PM on September 11, 2012


Isn't it "... horrible to see smoke pouring from wounds in your own any country from such a fantastic vantage point." knowing that human beings are dying?

Damascus
Baba Amr
Yeonpyongdo
Beirut


To know that this event was used to subsequently propagate the deaths of thousands more makes me sick.

These days my ire is really only for the people who are exploiting 9/11 for their own gain.


Flagged for truth.

Never forget? Maybe we should remember more than America's ~3500.
posted by BlueHorse at 3:03 PM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


No one is saying otherwise.
posted by shakespeherian at 3:08 PM on September 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


What I'm getting at is, there's a difference between carrying around your own emotional reaction, and having your emotional reaction get reinforced by having smoke in the air around you for a solid three months and walking by a score of missing-person-please-help posters on every flat vertical surface you saw every day.

Speaking as another person who was a whole continent away - the memory of that day will never go away. It was a horror show beyond anything I've ever seen, and even those of us who weren't front and center were waiting for the next wave, wondering what was going to happen next.

I do have to say this, though, because you triggered another related memory. I got to a point pretty early on where I could only turn the TV on for very short periods because I have little patience for talking heads on TV. So it was probably 2 or 3 days later when I turned it on and saw a clip of all of the missing-person signs you mentioned. And that hit me like a ton of bricks, maybe even harder than the footage of the towers, because it really brought home the human toll of the whole thing, and I bawled my eyes out for hours. I can't even fathom the emotional toll of seeing those in person every day.
posted by zoog at 3:23 PM on September 11, 2012


That's easy: just punch them in the face.

yeah but in 20 years people will know that that was just the traditional new york greeting at the time and they'll think you're joining in the festivities.
posted by indubitable at 3:32 PM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Along the lines of 'Patriot Day' there is a flyer up on our refrigerator at work. In short, it encourages everyone to let soldiers and any uniformed police, firemen, etc to cut in line or to go ahead of the reader today.

Soldiers and firemen? Maybe.

Police? They already take too many liberties and expect too much deference. Fuck that.
posted by grouse at 5:03 PM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


August of 2001, my parents decided that it was time to really Experience New York. My mom is from Brooklyn, so we'd go to NY all the time ... but it was mostly to go hang out in Sheepshead Bay with my great grandparents. Not the stuff tourism is made of. So we went to a Yankees game (they destroyed the Devil Rays). We went to the tenement museum and Ellis Island and saw a Broadway show and took the ferry back and forth to and from Staten Island. We wandered around the financial district, took a cab, ate at Katz's, ducked into museums, walked through Central Park.

I started 8th grade back in NH. Algebra class, someone comes in and tells Mr. Giotas to turn on the TV in the classroom just in time to watch the second plane. "It must be a kamikaze attack!" says Chelsea. "You mean they did it on purpose?" I say? "That's what kamikaze means, idiot," says Chelsea. And then I think about all my family and all the people I just bumped into on the sidewalk and everything is overwhelming and I can't get in touch with my mom because I don't have any quarters for the pay phone and one of the office ladies sees me having a meltdown and let's me use the school phone. Everyone, as far as we can tell, is safe.

My aunt gets married in New Jersey on September 15. When we drive across the Verrazano Bridge, there is an aircraft carrier off to one side. A helicopter flies over and I take giant gulps of air in case it crashes into the bridge and we land in the Hudson river and I'll have to swim for it. There are soldiers with machine guns at the toll booth. At my aunt's wedding, the New Yorkers tell stories of walking across lower Manhattan, of burnt pieces of paper landing on the sidewalk in front of their house in Flatbush, of the friend who missed work, the firefighter who didn't. The months afterwards are punctuated with bomb threats in my middle school and fake anthrax scares. When planes start flying again, the 6-year-old I babysit for asks "What's that noise? Is it a bomb?

Three years later, and the first guy from my high school has died in Iraq when an IED blew up his humvee. He was on the football team my freshman year, and I remember being intimidated by him when he walked past me in the hall. The year after I graduate, another guy is killed. He was in the chorus, so I tangentially knew him. Then a third alumni dies. My brother talks seriously about joining the Navy and becoming a SEAL (and this is even before SEAL team 6). George Bush presides over my life from ages 12-20. We have been involved in a war in the Middle East for more than half of my lifetime.

I would never dream of saying that my experiences of September 11 are comparable to the folks living in New York at the time. But September 11 has shaped my life in an all encompassing way. I can't begin to feel the pain of people who lost family and friends, but I swear to you that my life shifted and changed in a tangible way, and I need to stop once or twice today to think about it all. It doesn't have to be in a gaudy and public way, I hope it's not in a jingoistic or simplistic way. But I feel like it has to be acknowledged.
posted by ChuraChura at 6:00 PM on September 11, 2012 [7 favorites]


The cartography of 9/11 New York
posted by homunculus at 9:36 AM on September 13, 2012


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