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"Well, I guess Gary Condit's relieved..."
September 11, 2006 8:00 AM   Subscribe

In 2002 Salon.com ran an article on "forbidden thoughts" about 9/11 that they had heard expressed around them or reported by others. Apparently the response from their viewers was so overwhelming that they ran a second feature based on emails they received. All of which goes to show that while 9/11 united people in thinking about a certain subject, it certainly didn't mean that everyone thought the same thing about that same subject.
posted by clevershark (188 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Forbidden thought #1: "Does this mean I can invade Iraq?"
posted by riotgrrl69 at 8:09 AM on September 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


Well that's good (that everyone doesn't think the same thing about that same subject), I don't really see how that's possible anyway. It is interesting, and a lot more real (for me at least), to read about the small thoughts and everyday inaties that really occur rather then the grand sweep of statements to the effect that everything changed, heros, and such like.
posted by edgeways at 8:14 AM on September 11, 2006


I'm so glad they did this feature again, I loved it the first time around. Thank you!
posted by agregoli at 9:37 AM on September 11, 2006


At least I know I'm not the only one (although yesterday's MeTa thread also confirmed that)
posted by echo0720 at 9:44 AM on September 11, 2006


My wife sent in the fourth comment down on this page. It still makes me sad and angry to remember that my mother-in-law wasn't able to come to her daughter's wedding, that she had to listen to it on a cell phone held aloft by my brother-in-law. My parents elected to drive cross-country nonstop, stay a day for the wedding, and then drive back nonstop.
posted by Shecky at 9:59 AM on September 11, 2006


I worked in Jersey City at the time, and our office had great big windows with great views of the towers. My first thought when I learned what was going on was "I picked a hell of a day to wake up late." In retrospect that was probably a good thing. Then, as I and my coworkers gawked in horror at the sight of the first tower collapsing I thought "I wouldn't want to be an Arab in New York today."
posted by clevershark at 10:02 AM on September 11, 2006


Forbidden: My friend and I were sitting watching the teevee mid-afternoon PST and were hoping hoping hoping it was going to be white guys at the controls because the resultant shitstorm if it were brown people was going to be something we did not want to see.

Then we flipped through the various channels until exhausted by falling bodies and flying debris, watched Telemundo for a while because we could have pictures without rambling commentary (not that we could understand) and finally decided we'd take a break by switching to Teletubbies and getting really high. Interestingly, we were charged up with a sense that we wanted To Do Something Important to offset this senselessness.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 10:03 AM on September 11, 2006


I really like this sort of thing because this is how I and my friends deal with terrible events like this. Although I must be some kind of saint because on the day I merely felt, well, terrible. Great post (much better than the previous dot one).
posted by Turtles all the way down at 10:05 AM on September 11, 2006


My first thought was that the terrorists were anti-globalization protesters that took things too far.
posted by banished at 10:05 AM on September 11, 2006


Actually, having just made that comment I now realize a missed the point. This is more like "I hope this air assault on Baghdad goes ahead because it will look sooo cool on TV!". Which is just what I thought.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 10:12 AM on September 11, 2006


My thoughts echoed the comment below Shecky's wife's.

On 9/11/01, I just kept going out to stare up at the sky. It was so quiet and empty -- and yes, actually beautiful -- without jets and vapor trails everywhere. What corner of Antarctica will I have to visit to to see another completely empty sky from horizon to horizon?

When I reached teevee news overload, and couldn't get in touch with any of my friends, I put on my boots and went for a hike. The park was deserted, the roads were empty, the trail was all mine. I sat on a hill and soaked in the silence thinking, "well, I could get used to all this quiet in no time."
posted by peeedro at 10:13 AM on September 11, 2006


If only there had been more news producers with this reaction:

"I know it's not PC right now to be sick of flag waving and 'God Bless America,' but I really, really am. I just feel like the whole thing has been cheapened by our culture's saturation of patriotism." -- Network news producer, 29, in New York
posted by Hypnic jerk at 10:14 AM on September 11, 2006


It happened the year before I moved here from AZ. I was awakened early by my roommate's TV, where she sat, riveted. "A plane has crashed into the World Trade Center," she said. She tended to overreact to almost everything, and didn't seem to know the size of the plane or any details yet, so I said sleepily, "Well, I'm sure it will all be okay. I'm sure it won't be a big deal."

"But... no, I think it is a really big deal. It really seems to be!"

"Well, if it's a big deal, then it will still be a big deal when I wake up later on." And so I went back to bed for another two hours.

Of course, once I got up and saw what was going on, I felt like a complete ass.
posted by hermitosis at 10:17 AM on September 11, 2006


I, and many of my colleagues, had a whale of a time on the week of 9/11. So much of modern journalism is just utter pish, and this was real news, and lots of it. The adrenaline and excitement stay with me.

It wasn't until a few days later that we actually felt the human side of it, and the delayed reaction was quite strange.
posted by bonaldi at 10:17 AM on September 11, 2006


once I got up and saw what was going on, I felt like a complete ass.

Well, you weren't wrong. You could have slept all day for the difference it would make.
posted by sonofsamiam at 10:18 AM on September 11, 2006


These are beautiful.
posted by matkline at 10:24 AM on September 11, 2006


Hmm...A lot of the confessions in this thread don't really seem like confessions. That is, they're often phrased "My first thought was X. But, of course, later on I realized how important this was, and realized that X was wrong!"
posted by Bugbread at 10:29 AM on September 11, 2006


When they'd sent us home I was struck by how still and quiet Hoboken was that day. In a lot of places people had gone either indoors or outdoors and left their doors open. Inside every shop that had a TV in it you just saw people staring up at the TVs, dumbfounded. I was half-expecting to see tumbleweeds rolling around the streets.
posted by clevershark at 10:30 AM on September 11, 2006


How odd and selfish the Salon comments are.
posted by A189Nut at 10:31 AM on September 11, 2006


bugbread: I don't know about everyone else, but I'm definitely not trying to do that. I mean, when the second tower hit, there was a big part of me was hoping for even more crazy shit to happen, more blasts, more hijackings, just because it was exciting. Fuck, it was cool, for someone who used to spend his tuesdays on book reviews.

And when the death toll started at 100,000 and then steadily got lower, there was no doubt that I went "aww, boo".

But once the adrenaline had worn off, I came to terms with what the events actually meant, and the lives that were being lost, and I felt ashamed of wanting more of it. The first response wasn't invalid, but it was immature.
posted by bonaldi at 10:37 AM on September 11, 2006


That morning, I had carpooled in to work with a good friend of mine who happens to be Indian (Hindu). As soon as the towers fell, our office closed and we were sent home. My friend, however, wanted to make a couple of stops first. First stop was a local bookstore.

Now, you have to understand, this is Indiana. The state motto should be "They all look alike". And, even on the (supposedly) well-educated north side of Indy, the long stares and menacing looks we got as we roamed the isles of the store made me very, very anxious. I was never so relieved to get back on the road home.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:38 AM on September 11, 2006


I had another friend who watched the towers go down from Brooklyn, didn't know what to do to get out his sudden rage against Arabs, so he opened his refrigerator and started throwing out all his Middle Eastern food, yelling as he tossed items one by one into the garbage: "Fuck this baba ghanoush! We don't need their fucking pita bread!" I won't even tell you what he did to the hummus.

This got to me-- such a strange mix of absurdity, helplessness and anger.
posted by oflinkey at 10:41 AM on September 11, 2006


I worked in a grocery store at the time. Everyone called out but me and the assistant mgr and one cashier.

I don't think any customers came in that day.

Holy crap was it boring.

and that's how I spent 9/11.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 10:45 AM on September 11, 2006


I was getting ready to go to class just as the first plane hit, and I caught it on the news during coffee, thinking nothing more than "hm. how 'bout that". I caught the bus to class and when I got to campus I heard there had been a second hit. I met my friend at our usual smoking spot in the shade of the english building and we hoped that we would get out of class and then worked on the crossword. Then later that night, said friend and I watched the news and drank and said all the 'forbidden' things we wanted. It was a good night.
posted by greta simone at 10:46 AM on September 11, 2006


How odd and selfish the Salon comments are.

I don't find the comments "odd and selfish" at all. I feel that the comments were understandable emotional reactions to a confusing and traumatic event. I think people are brave for admitting that experienced emotions and thoughts that they did not feel they were "supposed to have." In fact, as a sociologist, I find these "forbidden thoughts" fascinating, because they show the processes of "emotion management" that went on when people's original gut feelings clashed with the collective consciousness on 9/11/01. (Hat tip to my former professor Arlie Hochschild and her discussion of social constraints on "feeling rules.")
posted by jonp72 at 10:51 AM on September 11, 2006


I'll admit that for me, the pain of dealing with any kind of crisis is always offset by the enormous relief of actually feeling alive for a change. Even though I wasn't directly involved in any way, I can remember having that same feeling.
posted by teleskiving at 10:54 AM on September 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


I was at work. I had just come in - a little late from the bus running late from the Hoboken terminal - and my boss passed me moving fast and said, "Something hit one of the Towers."

I blinked, dropped my bag off, and went into his boss's office - we're in Weehawken, and that window faced South - and there was the plume of smoke. And that was 9:03, and the second explosion happened.

I went back to my desk, a little shaken, called home to say I was OK, fired up the desktop machine, got onto my IM programs, and when AIM and Y!M had connected was beseiged by "are you OK" messages. I typed one: "I'm OK, I don't work in lower Manhattan, not even near that area". Then copy-n-pasted it to all of them.

Then a friend IM-begged for help - her husband had just gotten in and was unable to reach his mother to tell her he was OK. I called her to tell her.

And that's when the first tower collapsed. We went into the boss's office to look, and then the second went down.

I went back to my desk again, and started calling every local hotel to make reservations - most of our staff lived in Brooklyn or Queens or the Bronx or other places you couldn't get to anymore with all the cross-Hudson stuff closed. I managed to get everyone a place to sleep that night; they went to do their check-ins. That's when they closed the roads, and no one could get back. The boss called and told me I could go home.

I ended up having to walk from work to Hoboken - about two miles - and just... watching it all. I got to a train, they packed them full and sent them out. I got home, lay down on my bed and didn't think about anything at all for a long time.
posted by mephron at 10:56 AM on September 11, 2006


I was driving from Kansas City to Alberta. I drove all day, listening to CDs - no radio. I filled up with gas by using pay at the pump (and never spoke to single person). When I got to the Canadian border, it was closed. My reaction was WTF?!? Who closed Canada?

I had to backtrack and find a hotel room. I stayed overnight in Montana and was able to cross into Alberta on the 12th. I spent the following ten days in the Canadian Rockies with Banff and Jasper all to myself.
posted by daveleck at 10:59 AM on September 11, 2006


I was at the bank getting a car loan, and the loan manager told me that a plane had hit the WTC, and I thought to myself "boy, that's one unlucky Cessna pilot". Then I got to work and saw everyone not working, watching TV, and finally realized that it was an airliner that had hit the WTC, and I was like "woah". By the time the second plane hit I was riveted, here are some of my thoughts from the next hour:

"The USA has finally realized that they have lots of enemies."

"Thank god I got my loan today, because otherwise it would have been delayed by at least a week."

"Well, at least Bush will finally get to go and kick some ass."

"I wonder if that terrorist guy who bombed the embassy a few years ago is involved?"
posted by Vindaloo at 11:01 AM on September 11, 2006


I got the same weird sense of roller-coaster joy I do when a hurricane comes up the coast or a blizzard shuts down the city. In the chaos of the initial reports, I found myself disappointed to find out that some of the early reports of additional targets being hit were erroneous.

As the second tower collapsed, I found myself with a terrible sense of satisfaction. It was almost like, somewhere deep in the parts of my soul that don't see the sun, I was rooting for the event to be even bigger -- for it to cut so deeply through the banality of daily life, that things would never be the same.


I definitely felt a bit of a sensation like this, I have to admit. Not as the towers were collapsing - all I remember thinking at those moments was that it kind of looked through all that dust like the building was completely gone, but that just wasn't possible. But later, it was kinda like: Well, at least everyone will stop talking about who should be voted off on Survivor all the time.

At the same time, I remember thinking, later in the day, that it'd be years before climate change could muscle its way back into the public consciousness in North America. Turns out that was a pretty accurate assumption.
posted by gompa at 11:01 AM on September 11, 2006


Ok, bonaldi, fair point.
posted by Bugbread at 11:02 AM on September 11, 2006


As an ex-pat in America (who is very, very fond of the USA, but not in a blind way), you often find yourself defending the place to know-it-all-friends back in Europe.

If only on the fairly trivial grounds that living here makes you understand that not all Americans feel the same way about everything...despite the many witty UK newspaper columns about "American attitudes" from "our frightfully witty correspondent in New York/LA".

I sent that original Salon piece to a good mate in Britain because it encapsulated this truth. She was really startled (in a good way.)

Glad to be reminded of it (and to see the update). Thanks.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 11:02 AM on September 11, 2006


Bonaldi - what would consitute an 'invalid' response? One that you weren't really feeling?
posted by Dr. Boom at 11:03 AM on September 11, 2006


I don't find the comments "odd and selfish" at all. I feel that the comments were understandable emotional reactions to a confusing and traumatic event.

Absolutely. Most people probably do have odd and selfish reactions to an event like this. But many of these people seem a little too proud of their "un-PC" feelings. I'm not holding my breath for Salon to publish people's "forbidden thoughts" about Katrina.
posted by transona5 at 11:03 AM on September 11, 2006


hermitosis, I did exactly the same thing, with two noticable differences.
First I thought, "Well, that was a long time coming." Then came. "Man, now I have to re-work my New York By Night game by tomorrow night. Thoughtless terrorist bastards!"

It was a big deal - I had six players, with two newbies. That was the depressing thought that drove my collegiate backside back to bed.
posted by Jilder at 11:07 AM on September 11, 2006


My thought? Sorry, but it went like this: "Jeez, the Americans are acting as if they're the only people in the world who have ever had to deal with something like this. My parents lived through the Blitz; half of Europe was rubble only fifty years ago... I wonder what your average slum dweller in Peru or Malaysia, or any of the billions of people around the world who live precarious existences under military regimes, are going to think when they see the orgy of patriotism and victim-y wallowing that's going to follow this attack. I wonder if they're going to think 'Now you privileged bastards know what it feels like.'"

The other one is a not so forbidden thought that was at the front on my mind: Please don't let there be a war. And then that horrible dreamlike feel that we were trapped on a runaway train towards one.
posted by jokeefe at 11:10 AM on September 11, 2006


I remember my reaction quite clearly. Watching people die and react to death was depressing and made me feel completely useless; there wasn't a damn thing I could do about any of this. In addition, there was this tense, sinking feeling that we (meaning the US as a whole) would react to this with massive, indiscriminate violence and that, very quickly, the whole thing would spiral out of control. Imagine you're in a bar with two belligerent drunks going at it. One tips the other's drink over, spilling it into the guy's lap. The damp, offended party stands up, shaking with rage, walks outside to his car, gets something out of the back seat, and walks back towards the bar. You're thinking "oh... fuck. This is about to get worse. This is about to get a whole hell of a lot worse." That's how I felt.
posted by Clay201 at 11:14 AM on September 11, 2006


I didn't really have any forbidden thoughts, but on 9/12, I signed up for Netflix. I just couldn't take the non-stop coverage and opted to watch DVDs of my choosing instead.

My husband has an IRC log of the discussion that occurred while the day's events unfolded. I still haven't read it.
posted by parilous at 11:14 AM on September 11, 2006


We were living in Missouri, trying to raise money to pay for our wedding in October. We had planned a big garage sale for September 12. I had done a lot of preparation over the weekend, and had taken out an ad in the local newspaper, so I figured I'd still have the sale even though there wouldn't be as many people there.

The garage sale started at 7 a.m. and by 10 we were just about sold out. Tons of people showed up and haggled to get that $1.50 t-shirt down to 50 cents. It was business as usual. I remember being both reassured and amused by that.
posted by AgentRocket at 11:17 AM on September 11, 2006


I actually first heard about it on Metafilter, where I had just signed up. Like a lot of people I was just sort of surprised and fascinated. And there was a sense of relief that something "real" had happened. This was while the news media was fixated on shark attacks and crap. God, our media is totally pathological.

I skipped class that day and hung around catching up on all the news, etc. I was a little worried about the scale of the attack and how much damage it would do to the country, but by the end of the day it was obvious that it was "over" and not too much of the government had been destroyed.

Sitting in the middle of Iowa, I wasn't too worried about any physical danger.
posted by delmoi at 11:19 AM on September 11, 2006


Bonaldi - what would consitute an 'invalid' response? One that you weren't really feeling?

Well, no, but I mean I'm not trying to say that it was invalid, like some people try to write-off their initial emotions.
posted by bonaldi at 11:20 AM on September 11, 2006


I'm not holding my breath for Salon to publish people's "forbidden thoughts" about Katrina.

Heh, we all know what those were, people weren't exactly silent about it.
posted by delmoi at 11:21 AM on September 11, 2006


"Where is the acknowledgment that this was not a 'cowardly' attack on 'civilization' or 'liberty' or 'humanity' or 'the free world' but an attack on the world's self-proclaimed superpower, undertaken as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions? How many citizens are aware of the ongoing American bombing of Iraq? And if the word 'cowardly' is to be used, it might be more aptly applied to those who kill from beyond the range of retaliation, high in the sky, than to those willing to die themselves in order to kill others." -- Susan Sontag, in the Sept. 24 issue of the New Yorker

I really admire people like Sontag, quick to respond with some level of sanity when everything and everyone else (me included) were thirsting for blood. People like Russ Feingold, willing to vote against the Patriot Act or the war on Iraq when it wasn't politically smart to do so.

It's been a sad five years since then. Here's to hoping we can turn it around.
posted by mcstayinskool at 11:32 AM on September 11, 2006


i had moved to new york on sept 1st of 2001 and i lived on chamber street between church and west broadway, which is about five blocks from the trade center. our windows/fire escape faced the towers. i remember many things from that day, here are a few of them:

1. after the first plane hit, the starbucks on the corner was still open and i got a coffee. in retrospect, it's surprising that most people weren't more freaked out from the beginning. although the towers were very close, they were also very tall, so the actual giant burning hole was far enough away to not seem very threatening.

2. my roommates and i spent most of the first hour on the fire escape looking at the towers. all the paper flying around was actually really pretty.

3. we could barely make out the people in the windows of the top floors, but then one of my roommates remembered that he had binoculars, so we took turns with them and you could really see that all of the windows at the top had people leaning out of them. some of them were waving shirts and i thought it was pointless because there is obviously no crane in new york tall enough to reach them. i felt kind of weird about using binoculars to watch this. i felt a little bit the same way about taking photos, but at least photos could be shared, using the binoculars was purely out of personal curiosity.

4. i spent a few days trying to get back to our apartment. we had left after the dust had cleared from the first tower collapsing and none of us thought to bring anything with us that showed we lived in the apartment. the first time we came back to tribeca, they had pulled all the cars and trucks out from the rubble near the site and they lined the streets, they were all smashed and burnt out and full of debris. many had this really strange-shaped stuff coming out the top of them, which we realized was venetian blinds.

5. my parents never got through to me that day to find out if i was okay. in fact, they never even tried. somewhat frustrated, i called them at about 8pm. my mom said she figured i probably didn't live anywhere near there.

6. i got a temp job just after high up in a building just on the other side of the towers. one side of the office overlooked the top of a parking garage nearby and on the top floor, for several weeks, it was just the same three cars in the same three spots. everyone got sad looking down at them.
posted by snofoam at 11:33 AM on September 11, 2006 [2 favorites]


First thought: "Wow! Cool!"
First thing I said to my flatmate after the second plane hit: "Shit, I really hope Americans did this."

A bit later, once we'd established our friends in New York weren't dead, me and my mates basically treated it like an entertainment spectacle - telly on, beers in, compulsively refreshing news websites, placing bets on who the US would invade first, &c.
posted by jack_mo at 11:38 AM on September 11, 2006


I was exhausted that morning, because my wife and I ahd been awakened the night before by the Mpls Police Dep't beating the crap out of some guy in our neighbor's yard. Went to work, heard the news, felt awful, and left early to sit at home and watch CNN. While I was watching, I happened to look over and see my cat taking a shit; he was sick, and we'd had a lot of trouble getting the stool sample that our vet requested. So, for that one second, I was transcendantly happy that I finally had some cat poop to give the vet.

WTC 7 fell while I was dropping off the sample.
posted by COBRA! at 11:39 AM on September 11, 2006


What amazes me, looking back, is how incredibly different the succeeding five years were from how anyone expected it would be.

Who would have guessed 9/11 would have been the beginning of explosive growth in home values, including (especially) SoHo, Tribeca, and the Village, the neighborhoods right on top of Ground Zero? That we'd have two wars and no draft and taxes would go down? That there would be no successful, or even serious unsuccessful, terrorist attacks on the continental United States? That gay marriage would be a key issue in the 2004 elections? That Israel would withdraw from Gaza?

I guess the one thing that everyone expected was that oil would get above $50, but it took more than three years to happen.
posted by MattD at 11:44 AM on September 11, 2006


My first thoughts (while running on a treadmill at the YMCA early AM west coast time and CNN switched to it's vey first live shots minutes after the plane hit):

"DAMN! Crazy Ay-rabs! Probably that Bin Laden guy. I TOLD (my friend) Jennifer this shit would happen... cave hermit MY ASS! I have so won this argument with her... what's her number? Hey. We have an excuse to not work out now. (grab wife and boogie home)"

On way home, after Pentagon was hit:

"Okay we have water. Should get a couple more 10lb bags of rice. Ammo? How much Ammo do we have? I can trade the licqor left over from the wedding for more Ammo. Which nieghbors are going to be a problem? Hmmm... let me see..."
posted by tkchrist at 11:46 AM on September 11, 2006


he opened his refrigerator and started throwing out all his Middle Eastern food, yelling as he tossed items one by one into the garbage: "Fuck this baba ghanoush! We don't need their fucking pita bread!" I won't even tell you what he did to the hummus.

My wife and I got dinner from an Afghan restaurant that night specifically to counteract moronic reactions like that.

I was watching the CNN replay of their coverage, and one thing that struck me was how dependent reporters are on their beloved cliches. One reporter was interviewing a guy who'd managed to get out before the building fell, and instead of shutting up and listening to this unique story he kept interrupting to say "Were people screaming? Did you feel terrified?" It's like he had this Platonic ideal of the "victim interview" that he desperately wanted played out in its full, predictable glory: the screaming, the terror, the thanking of God... Instead, this damn eyewitness was being difficult, telling him there was no screaming, people were amazingly cooperative, etc.
posted by languagehat at 11:50 AM on September 11, 2006


Who would have guessed 9/11 would have been the beginning of explosive growth in home values, including (especially) SoHo, Tribeca, and the Village, the neighborhoods right on top of Ground Zero? That we'd have two wars and no draft and taxes would go down?

Deficit spending is a tax. The other shoe simply hasn't dropped yet on housing, you can bet on it.
posted by sonofsamiam at 11:50 AM on September 11, 2006


I think my mother phoned and simply told me to turn on the news.

I spent the next week more or less in a daze. It was obvious from the get-go that this was going to have global consequences. Also, it's a helluva thing to watch two icons of such immense size collapse in the middle of one of the most populated cities in the world. And the cost in human lives was sickening. The last minutes of their lives were lived in fear and panic — what an awful way to go. And then there was the social cost, the families and friends that lost someone. Horrible.

Sure enough, the US government did all the wrong things. Most of the USA population took simply ages to start understanding that their governments foreign policies were at the root of most of the problems. Hell, I'm not entirely sure a majority yet understand how interconnected we all are and how their government's behaviours affect everyone.

And then MeFi went to hell for a long time.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:50 AM on September 11, 2006


As I watched the second tower collapse and suddenly realized it wasn't an instant replay of the first tower, I remarked to the room, "Somebody has one hell of an operations officer."
posted by pax digita at 11:52 AM on September 11, 2006


And I remember being — and still am — incredibly proud of how efficiently, safely, and compassionately Canadians across the country pulled off the most amazing stunt of bringing all the aircraft out of the sky and taking care of the bajillions of passengers who were basically caught away from home at the start of a potential world war.

We shone as a nation that day.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:53 AM on September 11, 2006


I thought: would the rest of the girls on my floor of the dorms stop wailing in the lounge already?
posted by casarkos at 11:57 AM on September 11, 2006


Also: things are going to be really bad for Middle Eastern-looking people now.
posted by casarkos at 11:58 AM on September 11, 2006


When the first plane hit, I was driving home from work, having come in early apparently just to get laid off. I was angry and frustrated, having put 2.5 years into a job and a company that was completely mismanaged by venture capitalist idiots.

By the time I got home, my buddy in IT at the office had IMd me the news. I had the TV on while I was signing up for Monster and sending out resumes to my network contacts. The problem was that I lived in CT at the time, and most of my technical recruiting contacts were in NYC.

My thoughts that afternoon were filled with absolute terror: I was going to lose my house, my kids were going to need to go live with grandparents, my wife was going to have to find a better job -- I had trouble not imagining worse and worse scenarios.

I eventually found work a few weeks later. I lost 2 friends that day, and didn't find out if I'd lost a third until 2 months later, when the offices that company kept in the Financial Center reopened in New Jersey. I'm sure my friends' families went through a greater prolonged period of fear and loss and anger -- but I still think back to that day, and I can easily recreate the fear in my mind.
posted by thanotopsis at 12:03 PM on September 11, 2006


At that time I had a graphic design business whose name was one letter off from a much larger printing operation in Long Island. From time to time, I'd get emails meant for them, which I'd dutifully forward to the intended recipients.

That morning, minutes after I watched the towers fall, I received one such misdirected email, marked highest priority and requesting information on a "pending Operation Flashpoint US order."

After the freaked out scenarios stopped playing in my head, I figured out it was a request for prices for a game packaging print job and not my cue to either run to the FBI or hide out in the mountains. I forwarded it along with a short note of good wishes to the company.
posted by pernoctalian at 12:04 PM on September 11, 2006


"...Palestine can say goodbye to any US goodwill now"

That was when some Palestinian group had allegedly claimed responsibility.

"I hope they don't attack the Capitol, I like that building" was another.
posted by knapah at 12:06 PM on September 11, 2006


I based a lot of my reaction on my own experience "almost" getting blown up by a bomb by a 'domestic terrorist' (lone wacko with grudge against the IRS) years earlier. Later, the "Unofficial Death Toll" started out well over 10,000 and every time it went down, I let out a little cheer! By the time the toll settled down around 3000, I thought "if they were out for really massive death, they failed. Yeah, the Pentagon plane barely scratched that massive structure. You thought it might collapse like the towers? Dumbasses. And the 4th plane never came close to its target. Nobody will ever be able to try this trick again. Flying should be safer than it's been since the hijackings of the '70s! And less than 3000 killed in the Towers... what a relief! And about 10% of that number were rescue workers who went IN after the attack. Those terrorists fell wa-a-ay short! They blew it! They screwed up! They failed! Terrorists? Nothing to be afraid of!" And I still feel much the same way today.

I participated in the bloggers' 2996 Project (salute to one victi per blog), partly because of guilt about some of my feelings. Still, I ended up writing about my own experience and the lesson I learned: "Don't go in to work early".
posted by wendell at 12:09 PM on September 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


My boss bought pizza and wings for everybody, while we watched the it unfold in the boardroom. For him, it was nothing but a show with refreshments, like we were all watching "9/11 Smackdown" or something.

Later, he became annoyed that we were still interested in the events and requested we get back to work. He remains the worst human being I've ever encountered. No longer employed by him, thankfully.
posted by davebush at 12:37 PM on September 11, 2006


I didn't have any big, emotional thoughts that day, that week, or even that month. Does that count as a forbidden thought?

I was unemployed and living in Arizona at the time, so I slept through both plane crashes. The phone woke me up; my roommate's mother called to.... I don't know why she called. Why does someone in Ohio call someone in Arizona to talk about a plane crash in New York? It seems like unnecessary panic to me. (My mother didn't call me; perhaps she knows I have no time for motherly panic, or maybe she was busy trying to reach my brother in New Jersey.)

So, I watch the rest of "it" on TV, and never felt particularly overwhelmed by it. The U.S. had been attacked by terrorists before; a "Pearl Harbor"-sized event was bound to happen someday. (Anybody else remember Wired's prediction from 1995?) I figured the terrorists were probably foreign, because they attacked a financial building (as opposed to domestic nuts like who think blowing up the tax office is strategic).

A few weeks later, my roommate remarked that I didn't seem changed the way other people were. All I could tell her was that I'm an atheist with an anthropology degree. I already knew that there were people in the world who hated the United States, and that I've never expected the world to be fair or safe. Sometimes, I think that's the root of the shock that most Americans felt -- false expectations that the U.S. "deserves" peace and prosperity.

Even if that were true (which I don't want to debate), it wouldn't matter: In the real world, nobody really gets what they deserve. In retrospect, it seems to me that most reactions (whether of the "why us?: or the "got what we deserved" varieties) are just different versions of the same delusional belief about a fair universe.

I wouldn't go so far as to say that a lot of people had "invalid" emotions, but I can't help but feel that a lot of people had emotions which originated from irrational beliefs. But maybe that's just my inner Arrogant Atheist talking.
posted by faster than a speeding bulette at 12:37 PM on September 11, 2006


I cashed in on some of that "terror sex."
posted by sourwookie at 12:40 PM on September 11, 2006


...hoping it was going to be white guys at the controls because the resultant shitstorm if it were brown people was going to be something we did not want to see.

In about 100 years from now it will be common knowledge that the "white guys" were actually at the controls.

It was my day off from work and my producer called- waking me up -- and said "you better get in here, two planes just hit the World Trade Center". In a fog (mental), I drove to the station and on the overpass near Giants Stadium I looked toward lower Manahattan and saw the burning towers.

As I entered the studio, the first tower had just fallen.

In an editor's room I saw the replays of the collapse- over and over from all of the angles. The first things I thought were "too perfect", and "controlled demolition". I said nothing and wrote was I supposed to write.

The next 4 or 5 days were a complete blur.

I'm sure a few others were thinking the same thing that day and the days following- but no one dared say a word.
posted by wfc123 at 12:46 PM on September 11, 2006


I never saw it on tv. My husband says that's why I didn't react with strong emotion, except annoyance at the reaction.

Yes, it was a terrible attack. But terrorist attacks happened all over the world. North Americans were freaking out because for once it was happening to them. The opposition in the federal parliament wanted a WTC memorial to the 30-odd Canadians who had died. But no one had ever suggested a memorial to the 200+ Canadians who died in the bombing of an Air India flight several years earlier. Oh yeah, most of them were brown. I was pissed off with people crying like they'd lost their parents but knew no one affected, I was disgusted with the racist attacks and slurs (though the disgust was mixed with black humour when a temple - either Sikh or Hindu - was attacked). More recently, I've been angry at how the families of the 9/11 victims received massive amounts of government compensation - up to millions, for those who were well paid (even in death, the class system must be maintained) -- and what has been set aside for the families of those who died in Katrina? For those who lost their homes, their livelyhoods? In Katrina, people died well after the hurricane, because the government couldn't be bothered to get water into the city for days.

And now, five years later, all the fawning and overblown emotion again. But in a few years, will there be any ceremonies for the victims of the Asian Tsunami? Will anyone stand around reading the names of the 100,000 people who died? Yes, that was natural causes, but it doesn't make them any less dead. Followed by similar reactions for Katrina, I'm sure.

These are all my not so nice thoughts. I'm still having them. I'm sorry for those who died, for those who were directly affected. But I'm tired of the 9/11 remembrance industry.
posted by jb at 12:53 PM on September 11, 2006


If I were going to fake a terrorist bombing of the World Trade Center using a controlled demolition, I wouldn't bother with the presumably remote-controlled Muslims Hijacking Planes. Seems like overkill.
posted by riotgrrl69 at 12:55 PM on September 11, 2006


My first thoughts were: "Holy shit, somebody finally pulled it off!" and "Wow. They couldn't have picked a better day for it."

I saw a couple of minutes of the CNN coverage at the store and when I got home MetaFilter was the only place I could get through to. It was a helluva thread. It still is.
posted by merelyglib at 12:57 PM on September 11, 2006


In the days immediately following, I wanted to get a gun "for home protection" -- and I am not at all that kind of person. Fortunately I maintained enough level-headed-ness to not buy a gun.

Later on during the aftermath, every time I heard the song "War Pigs," the line "Satan, laughing, spreads his wings" immediately made me picture Osama bin Laden.

Also: I hate all this "never forget" crapola. What, like I'm gonna forget that shit? Jeez, people are stupid.
posted by scratch at 1:01 PM on September 11, 2006


I said nothing and wrote was I supposed to write.

Hey, you're supposed to be keeping that up, buddy. Now you've really entered the "forbidden thought" zone.

It's ok to ostracize you though, as your thought processes haven't fit the mold comprised of overwhelming components like "adrenaline" and "sensations" that would otherwise cause you to utter xenophobic, morbid statements. Never forget what they want you to remember!
posted by prostyle at 1:02 PM on September 11, 2006


MetaFilter: cave hermit MY ASS!
posted by homunculus at 1:08 PM on September 11, 2006


I wish all the people who say, "The towers were brought down by secret controlled demolition" or "The Jews were secretly warned not to got to work that day," were the ones on the planes and in the towers.
posted by fandango_matt at 1:13 PM on September 11, 2006


I wish all the people who say, "The towers were brought down by secret controlled demolition" or "The Jews were secretly warned not to got to work that day," were the ones on the planes and in the towers.

Never forget that those who entertain theories that make you uncomfortable probably deserve to die. Only five years, and we've come so far!
posted by prostyle at 1:19 PM on September 11, 2006


This comment seems even more appropriate with Katrina in mind only a few years later:

I watched from my window, not on television, as the twin towers fell. As shocked as I was, I felt that this was not my problem as a black person. The people who worked at the World Trade Center were mostly white men, and so they had nothing to do with me as a black woman.

When there was an outpouring of grief and donations from every corner of the United States, I said to myself, If those planes had flown into a housing project and the victims were poor blacks and Latinos, people in Missouri wouldn't give a damn. When I heard that there had been over $1 billion in private donations, I asked myself where was this money before? Why hadn't it been donated to help the homeless, children who do not have access to an education, people who do not have access to healthcare? Here we have people rushing to write checks to people whose families will be taken care of by insurance or their employers.

posted by dr_dank at 1:21 PM on September 11, 2006


"The towers were brought down by secret controlled demolition" or "The Jews were secretly warned not to got to work that day,"

How can you toss off those two statements as if they were equivalent? I'm not a CDer (or no-Jewer for that matter), but come on. You seriously can't tell the difference between nazi propganda and old-fashioned Amercan conspiracy theories?

Would you say the same thing about the proponents of any other prominent conspiracy theory?
posted by sonofsamiam at 1:24 PM on September 11, 2006


scratch writes "Also: I hate all this 'never forget' crapola. What, like I'm gonna forget that shit? Jeez, people are stupid."

How can I forget you if you won't go away?
posted by apple scruff at 1:24 PM on September 11, 2006


I was at work across the street from the Capitol when I heard that the Pentagon got hit. I announced to everyone that we should get out, then grabbed my camera and went down to the Mall to get pictures. I made it down to the Washington Monument, got some shots, then headed home, which was now on the other side of the Capitol. I saw a group of folks huddled around a guy in the middle of the Mall, and went over to see what was going on. Someone said one of the towers had fallen, and I simply didn't believe it. I had to take a huge detour around the Capitol to get home. I had about 10 answering machine messages from my parents, and when I called my dad, he said he knew I'd been down to take a look. I've always felt that was a bit ghoulish of me.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:28 PM on September 11, 2006


As I watched the towers fall, I was filled with the dread certainty that this event would give the Bush administration the excuse it needed to begin a crusade that would eventually ruin the world.

Pretty silly of me, eh?
posted by Optamystic at 1:28 PM on September 11, 2006


Here's what I thought, pretty much in order:

- This is a joke, right?
- There are gonna be 50,000 dead if those buildings come down.
- I bet this is a religion thing.
- There's gonna be fuckin' war.
- I wonder how much money I could make selling "I (airplane) NY" t-shirts on cafepress?
posted by solid-one-love at 1:29 PM on September 11, 2006


lol no women or minorities worked in the WTC or Pentagon am i rite? jesus, what an ignorant [deleted].
posted by keswick at 1:31 PM on September 11, 2006


I was in college at the time. the day after the attacks, a test was scheduled for my music appreciation class. at the beginning of the period, the professor asked with a heavy heart, "who here isn't ready for the test today?" a few pensive hands were raised, however not mine. I'm the fellow who always votes that we just get the damn thing over with. then he asked, "ok, who isn't ready for the test today because of the attacks yesterday?" which got all hands (save mine) flying. the rest of the day was a who-was-more-bummed-out contest.

a few days later, on the way to band practice, I burst into tears.
posted by mcsweetie at 1:41 PM on September 11, 2006


But I'm tired of the 9/11 remembrance industry.

amen, honey...i'm staying away from the crap on tv today (though i recorded the more relevant koppel special last night on discovery to watch later on)...showy patriotism has always pissed me off (and i think always has another agenda)...

i don't know that i had strong feelings about it at the time...i felt bad for the people directly involved...i felt bad for the country, because i had some inkling of what it would lead to politically and that it was just the boost bush needed...i don't know if at the time i put it into perspective of the number of people who die tragically in smaller spread-out events all the time (though i certainly did with all the talk of compensation funds and the elevation of the 9/11 family/widow, even above those of soldiers lost in the war)...i remember feeling bad for the criticism the red cross was getting for not pouring every available dollar into the aftermath, considering that doing so would have been short-sighted...

...i had to go to jury duty on 9/11, but it was canceled...later in the week, i was struck by how people, some wearing their flag pins and tshirts in support/remembrance, pulled out every pathetic excuse they could to not be required to serve on a jury...and i think it's then that i thought that most of us pretty much miss the point, and whatever happens to us as a country, we probably deserve it...
posted by troybob at 1:44 PM on September 11, 2006


also, I'm ashamed to admit that on the day itself, I did the typical stupid american thing and bought a ton of gas.
posted by mcsweetie at 1:45 PM on September 11, 2006


I woke up early, before the alarm in my apartment on 33rd street in Manhattan. I went into my study and hit nytimes.com. It didn't load and I could see that it was hung on one of the ad servers. I had until recently worked at nytimes.com and the way it was stalled I could tell that the servers were overloaded. I said to myself "uh oh, something happened" and turned on the tv and saw, just at that second the plane hitting the second tower in real time. I could immedately see that it was a passanger jet, but I listened as the announcer slowly put it together that it was a plane and that the fire in the other tower was from a plane, too.

I woke up my wife and she was in odd denial about it. She didn't really watch the TV and went into the kitchen and just stood there. The phone started to ring off the hook from relatives.

I don't remember much else but these two things:

I kind of 'came to' at one point and found myself screaming "NONONONONO" and jumping up and down when the first tower fell. My wife was in the kitchen and when I told her what had happened she started screaming at me at the top of her lungs: "You don't know that, you don't know what you're talking about, you always do that..." etc.

About 45 minutes after the towers fell the sidewalks on 3rd avenue were packed with thousands and thousands of people walking uptown to Grand Central. Half of them were covered head to toe in white/gray/beige dust and the other half were not. I saw one man with a bloody white dress shirt held to his head. This procession went on for hours. At some point my brother in law showed up, covered in dust and I went downstairs and some sandwiches and a couple of beers and we went on to the roof and had lunch. It was a really gorgeous day... just like today is. Exactly like today is.
posted by n9 at 1:49 PM on September 11, 2006


I came into the lobby of Electronic Arts that morning, where they have a trio of televisions that usually play ads for current or upciming games, but all three were set to a news channel, showing the plane impact footage. As far as I know, those TVs hadn't shown actual television before or since.

I think that was probably the most twisted context in which to see the footage for the first time. It didn't help that it seemed as impossible and unreal as could be without any recontextualizing.

There weren't many calls to tech support that day, which I felt was a relief, though we did get calls, even from people in New York.
posted by Durhey at 1:51 PM on September 11, 2006


In about 100 years from now it will be common knowledge that the "white guys" were actually at the controls.

I guess the loonies and morons will truly have taken over.
posted by languagehat at 1:51 PM on September 11, 2006


snofoam: I don't know why, but that bit about the cars on the parking garage really hit me. Thank you.
posted by Skorgu at 1:53 PM on September 11, 2006


There weren't many calls to tech support that day, which I felt was a relief, though we did get calls, even from people in New York.

I inexplicably bought a Powerbook that I had been saving for for some time on 9/12. I have no memory of purchasing it. None.
posted by n9 at 2:03 PM on September 11, 2006


I guess the loonies and morons will truly have taken over.

Languagehat: Sorry pal, but that ship sailed long, long ago...

Back on topic: I just remember feeling sick in the pit of my stomach, worrying about how things would turn out. Before long, the feeling got worse, as things just kept going more wrong. By the time the Anthrax attacks were all over the news, I pretty much lost hope, because it was pretty clear those attacks were domestic, since they targeted democratic law makers and members of the press, and I couldn't believe that anyone on the right could be so craven and brazenly opportunistic. Since then, I've just gotten more and more cynical about the whole thing. Where 9-11 could have presented us with an opportunity for long overdue national soul-searching and a renewed committment to the (IMO) egalitarian ideals that once gave our nation the potential for greatness, it seems to have led instead to more base opportunism, myopia and madness. Instead of becoming more spiritually-grounded and reflective, people started buying more WWJD stickers. Instead of actually supporting the troops and the war effort, people bought magnetic ribbons for their SUVs. The things that might have changed for the better just didn't, and the things that might have changed for the worse just kept changing for the worse. I still have a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach sometimes, five years later. But not because of what the terrorists did so much as how my fellow Americans and our leaders responded.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:08 PM on September 11, 2006 [2 favorites]


I remember thinking "wow, my cousin wasn't joking" and then "huh, I didn't really want to go to that job fair in Long Beach anyway."
posted by Hicksu at 2:11 PM on September 11, 2006


By the time we heard about Flight 93 going down in Penna., I was distracted enough -- in-laws in Pittsburgh -- and nobody was getting anything useful done at work anyhow. So I left and got my son out of his first-grade classroom -- the school wasn't doing much teaching by then either, and a uniformed cop was parked out in front of the main entrance -- and took him home early. I built Lego somethings-or-other with him. Hopefully his memory of 9/11 will be somewhat happier than his dad's.
posted by pax digita at 2:26 PM on September 11, 2006


I was living at home after college trying to find a job (found one a month later).

I thought, "Well, there goes my job prospects."
posted by agregoli at 2:37 PM on September 11, 2006


I didn't know the twin towers existed until the 11th. I mean, I knew there were some tall buildings in New York, but I didn't know that The World Trade Center had the two tallest buildings in the city. One visit to New York, I went to the top of the Empire State Building. In retrospect, I really wish I'd gone to the top of one of the towers.

I was on west coast time, living in Portland, but had gotten up at 6:30 or so to finish a paper when a friend who I hadn't talk to in ages IMed me with the news that the towers had been hit.

One of my first reactions was "shit, I hope they weren't arabs." My second reaction was to call my family in Boston and make sure nobody we knew was on the planes.

In fact, coming from Boston and knowing a bunch of people in New York, it always amazed me that I didn't know a single person who died in the attacks.

Things felt really surreal for me that day, I listened to the radio and reloaded every ten minutes the text-only page that cnn.com had put up.
posted by Hactar at 2:38 PM on September 11, 2006


I had just started college, which I finished just this last May.

My morning routine went: Wake up, stumble to computer, read a little morning news while drinking something caffinated, shower, dress, head to first class.

That day it went a little differently. RSS wasn't a thing, and so I had to hit sites manually, and my first stop of the day at the time was Slashdot.

I don't remember there being any other front stories on /., I could swear they were literally not there. There was just one story about a plane hitting the WTC. I thought it was a prank, or I was seeing things. Sleepily, I refreshed the page, to see if it would go away.

It didn't.

That was the first of many, "Oh, shit." moments, and was when the TV was turned on. After watching for a few moments, I went and took a quick shower, so I could watch a little more before leaving for class.

I can remember standing in my tiny, shitty dorm room half-dressed, with the TV People freaking out because the second plane had just hit.

The sunny, pleasant weather was jarring the rest of the day. And called to mind the Bill Hicks bit regarding CNN being depressing, and, "Where's this shit happening man?" and noting that when you looked outside... Birds chirping. The sun.

It took me a while to start really processing what was going on on a level other than sadness at the ugly things humans do to one another, and the beautiful things that sometimes come out of the ugliness.

I distinctly remember Penny Arcade's white-text-on-black, "We don't feel like being fun just now..." page.

The following two weeks of having the TV on CNN, et al., all day were the start of my utter contempt for 24-hour cable news.
posted by sparkletone at 2:40 PM on September 11, 2006


My first selfish thought was, oh damn, we were planning on moving to NYC...now what? (we did move there actually, in March 02).

Like everyone I've told my (inconsequential) 9/11 story a hundred times, so I'll just say that what I mostly felt was sickness and fear for my husband working in downtown Dallas at the time..because who was next? I worked in a suburb for a truly hateful woman who had the gall to ask me why I was crying when I didn't know anyone there. I spent all day refreshing CNN and ignoring her bitching that no one was working. Heartless harpy. Of course she was one of the first to mandate we all added flags to our name badges. Because nothing says freedom like enforced patriotic display.
posted by emjaybee at 2:47 PM on September 11, 2006


Saw the second plane hit and kind of figured it out. Late to the Children's Psych ward to visit my 9 year old, admitted the night before in the throes of his own personal collapse (misdiagnosis of mental illness + exact wrong medication). In the waiting room Nicklodeon was on at way high volume for the kids while the staff gathered around a small TV behind the desk. The first tower fell. An orderly walked me down to the padded room where my son was slumped in a corner. The door was unlocked, left open a notch because (the orderly said) he wasn't a danger to anyone but himself. Told me not to go in, just look through the slit, then turned and hurried back to the news. I went in anyway and hugged my boy. I honestly don't remember leaving.
posted by hal9k at 2:49 PM on September 11, 2006


a couple other related things that i didn't mention earlier:

1. there was a period of at least a few weeks when you couldn't get into tribeca unless you lived or worked there or were a rescue worker, but the bars were open. this was pretty cool, because it was the only time you could go to a bar there and really know that these people were your neighbors.

2. our street was the dividing line between where you could go and where only rescue people could go for a long time, and the starbucks on our corner gave free drinks to any uniformed rescue people, so you would always see the firemen and police coming out of there with the little cardboard thingies with three or four drinks in them. i always thought of these folks as rugged guys (and gals) who drink regular coffee like you see on tv, but no. they ALWAYS got crazy frappaccino-type stuff with the whip cream and sprinkles and stuff on it.
posted by snofoam at 3:11 PM on September 11, 2006


Was on the West Coast, heard the news footage before I saw it, and was wondering why the news shows were rerunning footage from the old WTC bombing attempt of 1993. I may well be the only person in the world who managed to think that, even for a moment.
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 3:17 PM on September 11, 2006


I watched from my window, not on television, as the twin towers fell. As shocked as I was, I felt that this was not my problem as a black person. The people who worked at the World Trade Center were mostly white men, and so they had nothing to do with me as a black woman.

When there was an outpouring of grief and donations from every corner of the United States, I said to myself, If those planes had flown into a housing project and the victims were poor blacks and Latinos, people in Missouri wouldn't give a damn. When I heard that there had been over $1 billion in private donations, I asked myself where was this money before?


Er ... bit of a lack of self-awareness there, Ms Black Person.

How about: As shocked as I was, I felt that this was not my problem as a rich white person. The people who lived in the housing project were mostly poor blacks and latinos, and so they had nothing to do with me as a white Missourian.
posted by bonaldi at 3:23 PM on September 11, 2006


they ALWAYS got crazy frappaccino-type stuff with the whip cream and sprinkles and stuff on it

maybe they were picking some up for the women (or men) giving up some easy tail for fire/police/rescue workers...an effort i applauded when i heard about it...
posted by troybob at 3:23 PM on September 11, 2006


"I thought, personally, he had to go to the bathroom."
posted by amberglow at 3:31 PM on September 11, 2006


When GM sent us home, I was pissed because only unaware Americans would think that the bloody GM Tech Centre could possibly be a terrorist target.

When they closed the Canadian border, I paniced for a few minutes, like my escape route was gone (like I couldn't swim the Detroit River. Like that would solve anything.) Then I was furious that they dared cut part of my world off.

And I'm still annoyed at how much more difficult it is to cross the border now.

The crap since, with all the right wing lies and deification of the victims...shameful.
posted by QIbHom at 3:43 PM on September 11, 2006


5. my parents never got through to me that day to find out if i was okay. in fact, they never even tried. somewhat frustrated, i called them at about 8pm. my mom said she figured i probably didn't live anywhere near there.

snofoam, that made me laugh out loud. poor you.

My experience was similar to many, in that I woke up to the news, and took my time getting to work because obviously something was going on far more important than whatever it is I do. When I arrived, the rest of the day was shot as we all surfed for news updates and speculated morbidly about what was happening. Despite the tragedy, there was an unmistakeable giddiness in the office.

I also remember when the enormity of the event really sank in for me: when CNN speculated that up to 50,000 people might have been in the buildings. That, and later rumours than up to 8 planes had been hijacked across the country.
posted by jimmy76 at 4:01 PM on September 11, 2006


I was annoyed that bushorchimp.com was taken down. The Onion's America Under Attack special more than made up for that, though.
posted by Soulfather at 4:09 PM on September 11, 2006


About 45 minutes after the towers fell the sidewalks on 3rd avenue were packed with thousands and thousands of people walking uptown to Grand Central. Half of them were covered head to toe in white/gray/beige dust and the other half were not.

That was me. I was wearing my first really expensive suit, bought a week before, and thinking, "Oh shit, this had better dry clean!"

I also remember thinking, "This is all Jerry Bruckheimer's fault."

Is anyone else seeing the ad for "911 Jumper Savings. Smart Jumper Shopper start here" ?
posted by anotherpanacea at 4:10 PM on September 11, 2006


My first reaction wasn't to think of the victims at all. My first reaction was, "Oh fuck. Our country's going to go insane now. The administration is going to use this as an excuse to walk all over everyone."

In my defense, I was right.
posted by speicus at 4:42 PM on September 11, 2006


Er ... bit of a lack of self-awareness there, Ms Black Person.

Yeah. I thought that as well. Man people are petty and fucked in the head.

D9: My wife was in the kitchen and when I told her what had happened she started screaming at me at the top of her lungs: "You don't know that, you don't know what you're talking about, you always do that..."

I hope you later did what any red-blooded husband would do and say:

"Member on 9/11 when you screamed and bitched at me and said I didn't know what I was talking about? Remember that? I just want to say I know things were emotional. I understand feelings were running high. We were all... well you know... But... Well... guess who looks like a stupid mother fucker now! In your FACE beee-yatch! BOO-YA! ... Oh and I'll be back from the titty bar at 2am. Keep my dinner warm."
posted by tkchrist at 5:02 PM on September 11, 2006


I was just about to drive through the center of downtown Los Angeles, under the tallest building in LA, when my wife called me to tell me the news.

When I got to my job in an asset management company everyone had already left except for us techs, and all the screens, normally tuned to Bloomberg, were on CNN, with all the technical guys -- many from NY, many from previous jobs in the WTC -- huddled together crying in the big empty conference rooms.

There were three possible thoughts. Holy shit. A bunch of people we talked to every day are now gone. And are we next.
posted by felix at 5:11 PM on September 11, 2006


Man people are petty and fucked in the head [...] Oh and I'll be back from the titty bar at 2am.

Is this deliberate or dramatic irony? YOU MAKE THE CALL
posted by speicus at 5:26 PM on September 11, 2006


"wow. those chileans sure took their time taking revenge for pinochet, but i guess they were just waiting to do it with maximum prejudice..."
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:30 PM on September 11, 2006


I will admit to one inappropriate thought, though it was far from my first thought that day. It was: "The Mariners are having the greatest season in baseball history, and I knew there was no way the universe could let it just happen." I still think that if 9/11 hadn't happened, the M's would have not only won a couple more games, but they would have gone all the way to the World Series.

I was in bed when the towers were hit, but woke up to the news on the radio before either tower fell. KIRO was playing live coverage from... I think from a New York station. And I could tell right away that it was some big news story, because they only pick up remote coverage like that when something big happens. But I was groggy and couldn't really tell at first what was going on. Then my husband said "I think a plane hit the World Trade Center." I guess he was less groggy than I was.

We listened for a bit, then he got dressed for work. After he left I went downstairs, turned on CNN, and watched for ages. My teaching job called and said that school was closing for the day. That evening, we felt like we needed to be with friends so we went to Acapulco Fresh for dinner with a friend and just talked, stunned and worried.

The weather that day was sunny and clear in Seattle, just as it was in New York... and today, it's like that again.
posted by litlnemo at 5:56 PM on September 11, 2006


I was home sick from school. I turned on the TV to see images of the towers burning on BBC News. I remember standing there in my nightgown staring at the screen with the remote in hand feeling irritated that BBCAmerica would be showing the news during this time of the day rather than a Groundforce rerun or something else that I could watch, so I turned off the television. After that I think I went back to bed; I don't remember anything else from that day.
posted by kosher_jenny at 5:57 PM on September 11, 2006


my forbidden thought today? That this fucking evil piece of shit speaking on television now (in what was supposed to be a non-political speech) should have been in the WTC on 9/11--on a very high floor.
posted by amberglow at 6:18 PM on September 11, 2006


The moment I hear Bush speaking on the television I get the irresistible urge to change the channel. That's not actually a forbidden thought, just a sensible one. I'm happy that at least I'm not paying taxes his salary anymore.
posted by clevershark at 6:45 PM on September 11, 2006


I received the news by text message on my cell phone, and I thought it was either a message garbled by the service that sent them out (this happened a lot) or that it was one unlucky Cessna pilot. I got to my car this was no Cessna, and drove to my school which was a quick five minute drive - that is when the second plane hit, so it was no accident. I listened for a few more minutes and went to my computer lab.

Everyone in the lab was trying to get news and none of the web seemed to be working. People were gettting emails that talked about car bombs and hundreds of thousands of people dead. I remember a few people really puzzled trying to figure out who did this.

I live in Canada and its the first time I can remember seeing a lot of fighter planes. I wasn't close to a major airport but I worried about my parents and whatever might be on those planes that were being diverted to Canada.

The next few days, I saw all the news coverage and became numb over it. I remember them talking about cancelling sports, etc and me hoping we did not become so culturally sad. That made me feel a bit guilty. I didn't want to minimize what happened, but western civilization didn't really shut down during WW2 and life should go on.

5 years hence, Bush is in charge of the USA - even though up to 9/11/01 he had been pretty invisible. Osama is still running through the mountains, the Taliban seems to be reforming.
posted by Deep Dish at 6:49 PM on September 11, 2006


I'm not sure if I had any forbidden thoughts that day -- I was at my desk at the World Financial Center, sitting by the window with a view of the Towers, when the first plane hit. It sounded like a truck going over a metal plate in the street. I went to the window after seeing flaming chunks fly past and I was looking up at jumpers and down at ruined cars when the second plane hit. I was so close to it that I couldn't see the plane, but rather thought it was an explosion caused by the first one. I'd talked to my wife in midtown already, and after the second plane, a friend called from Jersey City to tell me it was a second plane and I should get the hell out. I was in Battery Park when the South Tower fell and I got covered in dust and the whole deal. I distinctly remember thinking as I saw it pancake, "Well, it's been more than an hour -- everyone probably got out." When two coworkers and I were walking up Water Street, I heard someone yell, "They got the Pentagon," and all I could think was, "Of COURSE, they got the Pentagon."

One thing that sticks with me is how I can recall many of the things I was thinking that morning BEFORE the planes hit...
posted by AJaffe at 7:03 PM on September 11, 2006


I thought it was an astoundingly audacious attack, a quantum leap forward from Al-Qaeda's usual strategy of "put a bomb in a car/truck/boat and park it next to something." It was a whole new paradigm for them, and I expected to see more operations like it. Synchronized bombings in shopping malls, attacks on schools and day cares, contamination of water and food, crippling of infrastructure.

But they haven't done that. They've gone back to the park'n'bomb school of thought, in fact. That's the one thing that wriggles in the back of my mind and suggests that maybe, just maybe, they had help with this one.
posted by EarBucket at 7:35 PM on September 11, 2006


back then, we didn't even have flickr. but now we do.
posted by snofoam at 7:36 PM on September 11, 2006


I was looking up at jumpers

I hope to God it's the first and last time anyone has to ever see anything like that at all.
posted by amberglow at 7:59 PM on September 11, 2006


Among all the sadness, I remember feeling some private vindication, as I had often mused, walking past the Hancock Tower on my way to work in Boston in the late 90s, that one way to kill a lot of people would be for a crazy pilot to fly a jetliner into a skyscraper. I never talked about this -- how could a psycho mass murderer get behind the controls of a jetliner?-- but the thought crossed my mind pretty regularly.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 8:04 PM on September 11, 2006


1 year from now, God willing
posted by amberglow at 8:22 PM on September 11, 2006


A few weeks ago, I coincidentally wrote what is for all purposes my response to this thread, but it was about 5 pages long. It's a complicated collection of memories. I got really, really drunk that night - and remained that way, essentially, for about 2 years.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 8:39 PM on September 11, 2006


1 year from now, God willing

Yes! President Cheney! I can see your point, amberglow.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:05 PM on September 11, 2006


I was still a student and had a calculus test that day. I walked to class hoping it would be cancelled - and when it was, I was thrilled that I had more study time.

I was dating a Muslim at the time, and went with him to see his family that night. His mother answered the door looking just awful and so scared, and I was suddenly overcome with absolute terror that this could mean division and discrimination and maybe a war.
posted by honeydew at 9:48 PM on September 11, 2006


Is this deliberate or dramatic irony?

#1 Since 9/11 irony is dead. Or hadn't you heard?

#2 It is deliberate. And it ISN'T irony. Irony is scary. Irony is like the Burgess Merideth Twilight Zone episode about the guy who liked to read but was always bothered by people until they all got blowdid up in the apocalypse. And then he BROKE HIS GLASSES. OMFG. Irony!

It would have been ironic if, when D9 went to the titty bar, he sat next to a group of quiet middle eastern men who politely made change for the fifty D9 wanted to stuff down the G-string of the stripper entertaining them all. And then, only later at home in the company of his bitchy wife, did D9 realize the man maniacally grinning at him through the sweat and haze of western decadence of the titty bar was none other than Mohammed Atta! OMFG! Irony!

#3 We call what I did there "a Joke."

Since 9/11 humor is also dead. apparently.
posted by tkchrist at 9:09 AM on September 12, 2006


An interesting reminiscence:
...and then in runs a man wearing what looked to me like those old Eddie Bauer hunting get-ups with the bush jackets, pith helmets, and Bermuda shorts--that's what he was wearing, I swear, and it turned out he was a Canadian journalist and he had just been released from police custody and told he had until morning to get his ass back to Canada or they'd bust his ass again. "What the hell did you do?" "I sneaked past all the police and guards and shit and I got into Tower One, in through a side entrance, I was following a bunch of firemen. I was taking pictures like crazy...." He was talking so fast and furiously he was gasping for breath rapidly between each word. We helped him cool out with a tumbler of Jameson's and brought him back to his senses. "Anyway, I ran into a bunch of police and they stopped me, roughed me up a bit, smashed my camera, and then handcuffed me and took me back up on ground level and were fixing to put me in a police van when the building started falling."
posted by languagehat at 10:42 AM on September 12, 2006


I woke up late for work that morning and on the drive in, the first tower had collapsed. At that point, we (my wife and I) still thought it was some crazy twin-engine accident. I got to work, walked through the cube farm and cracked a joke "I guess my broker at the World Trade Center won't be getting back to me today." The icy glare I got from my boss was for the ages.

Me and two other co-workers went to a bar and watched the rest of the coverage and of course I felt like a tool for my comment.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 11:44 AM on September 12, 2006


I was voted in a day prior for a high school civics class to be Senate majority leader for the mock senate project we were doing. I racked my brain for hours trying to figure out what bill to write. The next day the bill, idea and text wrote itself. For lots of people, this was the first time I had talked in public and people began to approach me, no longer afraid I was going to commit any Columbine-like shootings (I was a really awkward, quiet kid). I was invited to more parties and drunken gettogethers than the last three years of high school combined.

I'm going to hell for saying this, but 9/11 got me out of my shell and made my social life alot cooler.
posted by portisfreak at 11:57 AM on September 12, 2006


I woke up late for work that morning and on the drive in, the first tower had collapsed. At that point, we (my wife and I) still thought it was some crazy twin-engine accident. I got to work, walked through the cube farm and cracked a joke "I guess my broker at the World Trade Center won't be getting back to me today."

Wait, the first tower had been hit or had collapsed? I'm hoping you meant the first and typed the second without noticing, because if you knew the building had collapsed and were still joking about it, you really are a tool.
posted by languagehat at 12:04 PM on September 12, 2006


Nope. I meant it the way I typed it. Even though it had collapsed, it was still and unreal event. Having no visual of what had happened coupled with my own denial probably made it less real.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 12:55 PM on September 12, 2006


I remember trying to drive to work on 9/11. I had to pass near the Sacramento Int'l Airport, and Hwy 5 was backed up quite a ways. The office manager of the place I worked at (I was a sysadmin for a weather forecasting company in Chico - that job sucked ass. Asinine dress code requirements, stupid hours, etc.)
actually called me and asked me "if I was going to bother coming into the office today." I said "I'm on my way in now."

And as I expected, I drove the 90+ minutes to work, and sat there doing absolutely nothing all day. We all sat around and watched television, and I read news on the few news sites that didn't fall off of the internet. The entire day was absolutely miserable and I was on the other side of the country.
Of course, at the time there were unconfirmed rumors coming in about explosions in Seattle, and I had fairly recently moved back from that area.

9/11 sucked.
posted by drstein at 12:57 PM on September 12, 2006


I remember watching the first tower come down and wondering how many people in it had donated money to the IRA.
posted by Hogshead at 5:22 PM on September 12, 2006


Hogshead, you're an asinine POS. A truly canonical example of a troll.

I thanked god I wasn't at college as I thought this was an inducement for more prothing at the mouth. I was afraid of the potentially new legitimization of the Neocon movement as well..
posted by Redgrendel2001 at 7:07 PM on September 12, 2006


Redgrendel2001 writes "Hogshead, you're an asinine POS. A truly canonical example of a troll."

Er, if he really thought "I wonder how many of them gave money to the IRA", then I don't think you can call him a troll (unless you include thinking as part of trolling). And if you mean "Thinking it was fine, but telling us here is trolling", well, then, how the hell should a discussion of hidden and unacceptable thoughts if we're not allowed to voice them because they're unacceptable?
posted by Bugbread at 7:48 PM on September 12, 2006


Redgrendel2001: There was a lot of discussion in Britain on 9/11 about how Sinn Fein would be affected by the fact that the US was suddenly going to learn what terrorism was, and how donating to the ol' oirish cause wouldn't seem so righteous any more. There had been a great deal of resentment that terrorists were welcome in the US, as long as they wore green.

The fact that the Northern Ireland peace process has gone so smoothly since then -- well, no major terrorist incidents and the IRA renouncing violence -- is in no small part down to 9/11.
posted by bonaldi at 8:09 PM on September 12, 2006


Makes sense, bonaldi.

My sister in London mentioned the IRA in connection with 9/11. It is not an unreasonable connection. After all, American donors were the main source of IRA money. She talked about how she had been living for years with daily threats of terrorist bombings of London pubs, busses, civilians --- she wondered just how many of the loudly mourning, patriotic americans in the news had also been the ones who had been contribuing to the IRA ... and to London's misery.
posted by Surfurrus at 10:02 PM on September 12, 2006


Ward Churchill said it best. I didn't find his essay for years, but he said everything I was feeling (silently) on 9/11 ... Some People Push Back ...
posted by Surfurrus at 10:09 PM on September 12, 2006


On Sept 11 I was sitting around with friends reminiscing about where we were when Kennedy was shot.
posted by CeruleanZero at 11:22 PM on September 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


wondering how many people in it had donated money to the IRA.

It's actually a perfectly natural thought for anyone who is British. They've been living with terror for a lot longer than the Americans -- terrorism supported heavily through donations from the United States. Individual Americans have been supporting terrorists for decades - terrorists who conciously targetted civilians. Not to see the hypocrisy of that is far more inappropriate.

So when are the government going to go around arresting people who donated money to the IRA? Wait, they only blew up Brits and Irish? No worries then.
posted by jb at 3:37 AM on September 14, 2006


I've read Boston & The Bronx themselves kept the IRA humming (and bombing) for ages. But then also, many here see the IRA as patriots and relate it to our own revolution. Why are the British still in Northern Ireland anyway?
posted by amberglow at 8:22 AM on September 14, 2006


On that logic, one should see the Iraqi resistance forces as patriots. Same with Hez. And yet it's illegal to give them money...
posted by five fresh fish at 8:33 AM on September 14, 2006


Why are the British still in Northern Ireland anyway?

Because, when Ireland was granted its independence, the majority of people in those counties did not want to separate from Britain. They were, at the time, overwhelmingly Protestant, and saw themselves as part of Britain. There are still a lot of people in Northern Ireland who want to remain part of Britain, while some others don't - that's why they keep fighting there (also because so many are insanely prejudiced - Protestants throw rocks at little Catholic school girls, Catholics terrorise an old Protestant lady for living on the wrong side of town - they are as bad as the Israelis and Palestinians, only now with less imbalance in power). They should end the prejudice and violence, integrate the schools, and then deal with the issue of remaining with Britain.

Frankly, they should just have a plebiscite to solve it already. If the majority want to go, fine. If the majority want to remain part of Britain, then they should be allowed to, without interference from republican Ireland or the United States.

And yes, the IRA (and their Ulster protestant counterparts) are just as much "patriots" as Hezbollah, Hammas, and the Iraqi resistence are -- or are not. Their image in the U.S. is so favourable because of long standing propaganda, and the double standard is patently obvious to anyone outside.
posted by jb at 9:25 AM on September 14, 2006


I see all of those as patriots--everyone on Earth who is fighting for independence is, in my view, whether they use violence or not. We used plenty of violence in our day, for years.
posted by amberglow at 1:04 PM on September 14, 2006


Same situation with the Basques in Northern Spain. The majority of folks want to remain Spain, a minority want to separate, and hence bombing commences. Add to that the fact that the Basques are claiming more and more land that should be Basque, and you have situations like the fact that everyone in my mom's childhood village considered Basque territory to start in the town on the other side of the mountain ridge, but when we visited them recently, they mentioned that now the Basques claim their village is and always was Basque, despite nobody in the village agreeing.
posted by Bugbread at 3:25 PM on September 14, 2006


i'd let them all spin off if they wanted. Most countries are artificially cobbled together anyway.
posted by amberglow at 3:46 PM on September 14, 2006


in cases like that village--let the population vote on it. If it was always Basque, then it'll be Basque. If the majority of the population isn't Basque it won't be.
posted by amberglow at 3:47 PM on September 14, 2006


Yes! Think how colourful the world will be with zillions of tiny states, separated along religious and / or ethnolinguistic lines!

And bureaucrats would prosper, as well as armies.

Of course, there would be a bit of churn implementing this noble idea, but India & Pakistan got through their partition OK.

And it's always good to encourage segregation, rather than equality & tolerance of diversity.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:49 PM on September 14, 2006


It's not equality nor tolerance of diversity when people are occupied. It's not equality nor tolerance of diversity when Empires or stronger nations randomly draw boundaries to create new nations or to capture vital assets and resources. It's not equality nor tolerance of diversity when third-party nations or institutions make decisions on where some national boundaries lie. ...

We live in a world full of those kinds of decisions that have created what we know of now as nations. Wars, empires, colonies, dictators, settlements, resources, religions, etc...

Do you think Czechoslovakia should have been forced to remain one instead of 2? Should Kosovo and Serbia? ...
posted by amberglow at 9:08 PM on September 14, 2006


Look at the Iron Curtain. Look at China now, swallowing up Tibet and Hong Kong, and aiming for Taiwan--that's ok? They're practicing equality and tolerance of diversity? I don't think so.
posted by amberglow at 9:11 PM on September 14, 2006


Look at Iraq--the British created it, and it never should have happened. There are 3 distinct groups and regions--should they stay together because the British were right? because they can all get along? Because they share some national pride? Were the British practicing equality and tolerance of diversity when they cobbled it together?
posted by amberglow at 9:15 PM on September 14, 2006


sure, build your argument from the most fucked-up examples you can find.

clearly, imperialists exist & have existed. similarly, people will sometimes exploit ethnic tensions to satisfy their own sad ambitions. however, this does not mean that tolerance & diversity cannot exist, or that multiculturalism is doomed to failure.

india, for example, has thirteen major languages, and her states are roughly built along linguistic lines. india is, of course, the world's most populous functioning democracy, and is remarkably peaceful considering, well, just about everything about that country.

most winner countries these days are also heavily multicultural, generally with plenty of acceptance & cultural interchange & few significant incidents of ethnic tension.

arguing that people should focus on their differences & secede into separate, insular us-states just denies the many successful examples of coexistence.

the one exception to all this happy peace is, of course, canada, which remains a total basket-case.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:45 AM on September 15, 2006


By that logic, the Northern US was wrong to fight the separation of the South. Why should they have been forced to remain one, instead of 2? That was clearly a war of occupation, and now they should let the South go and form their own country.

Not so nice when people are talking about carving up your own country. What if Canadians were sending money and weapons to Michigan militia men? To violent pro-independent Texas terrorists? If someone proposed carving off California? They don't need the U.S. Or give the majority of America back to the Native Americans. Just like the British Protestants in Ireland (who've been there longer than any white Americans have been in the States), you should go all back to where you came from, because ancient land claims are always valid. Give Manhattan back to the Manhattans.

Frankly, I think the current Balkanisation of states is not healthy - it leads to rampant nationalism and to ethnic conflict. They can't learn to get along, so they break up. If in Canada we proposed kicking out everyone of a different culture, we would rightly be denounced as racist. The Kurds and Shia and Sunni should learn to live together in peace -- or would you rather that they become the next Balkans? Where racist leaders come to power on the coattails of nationalism -- nationalism is, after all, just a nice word for racism -- and begin to slaughter anyone on the wrong side of their "rational" border.

All borders are irrational and cross ethnic lines. There is no country on the entire planet which doesn't take in many different ethnicities. The so-called "nation state" is a nationalist myth -- the prime examples usually chosen are France (where French isn't even the same language everywhere), and Britain (because everyone knows the Scots, English, Welsh and Irish are all one "nation" right? Oh...). The Ottoman Empire, which predated the British in Iraq, united far more people and different ethnicities.

All that matters is self-determination - people ought to have the democratic choice whether to separate or not.

But that doesn't mean I wouldn't use all peaceful means available to fight the separation of countries, esp those justified on nationalist terms. In my own country, racist nationalists used lies to try to effect the separation of Quebec. They were not fighting "oppression" -- French is an official language, an officially priviledged language in Quebec, Quebec politicians dominate the national government, and French Canadian culture is much more robust than English Canadian (including the once notable and now disapearing English and Jewish culture of Montreal). No - they wanted to fight to keep Quebec pure, and when they lost they blamed "big money and the ethnic vote" (aka not pure line Quebequois).

Northern Ireland is a more complex question. Because of the violence, they have gone for decades at a time without democratic government, and what they want now may not be the same thing as in 1922. But it would be a lie to say that the IRA weren't violent terrorists. They killed more people in Northern Ireland than anywhere else, Catholic as well as Protestant. In the troubles, they murdered a Catholic Irish woman simply because she went to the aid of a wounded British soldier; her body was only recently found. More recently, when a Catholic man was killed by accident, the IRA offered to help the family by finding his killers and executing them.

There is a line between fighting for your freedom and being a terrorist -- and that line comes before the first bomb, the first murder.

Maybe all this is hard for Americans to accept, because they did use violence in their revolution. The freedom they were fighting for? The revolutionaries wanted their own parliame nt, because they were angry at being asked to pay taxes for the first time (to support the army that protected them from French and Native raiding), they were angry because Britain had agreed to tolerate Catholicism in French Canada, and they were angry because the British wished to reserve the Ohio valley for the natives. If you wish to look for quality and tolerance, I'm afraid that your own revolution falls well short of the mark. They fought against British tolerance and Native land claims.

But it was a long time ago, and you can't turn history back. The United States, for better or for worse, exists, and I would no more advocate against its existance than I would any other country.

But I wouldn't necessarily take it as an example for the rest of the world. Canada, Austrailia, New Zealand -- they all found independence peacefully. India achieved it through non-violence means, only to devolve into terrible violence when they separated from Pakistan. If history has any lessons, it's that separation leads to violence.
posted by jb at 1:55 AM on September 15, 2006


imagine the chaos & violence if indonesia split into its 300 distinct ethnolinguistic groups. the dominance of the javanese may not be the most ideal situation, but i imagine it is far preferable to the alternative...
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:05 AM on September 15, 2006


I'd like to point that Canada is a peaceful and prosperous basketcase. Mainly because, fortunately, our current separatists eschew violence. They do use lies (saying one thing in French, something else in English, lying to the anglophones about what the results their referendum would mean in practice) and racist nationalism, but since the 1970s, they haven't used violence.

That said, if they actually did separate, even peacefullly, Canada would be a complete economic basketcase.
posted by jb at 2:09 AM on September 15, 2006


But I wouldn't necessarily take it as an example for the rest of the world. Canada, Austrailia, New Zealand -- they all found independence peacefully

australia's example also involved the successful federation of a number of previously autonomous colonies, separated by enormous distances in an era of painfully poor communications. new zealand was mooted for inclusion for a while, but that didn't eventuate for some reason. probably something to do with sheep.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:14 AM on September 15, 2006


the comment about canada was tongue-in-cheek.

(unlike the one about new zealand)
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:17 AM on September 15, 2006


Austrailia already had as many sheep as they could handle, and the women said they wouldn't accept any more.
posted by jb at 3:02 AM on September 15, 2006


Why do I keep misspelling Australia? It just looks like it wants more i's. Maybe it is jealous of Illinois.
posted by jb at 3:03 AM on September 15, 2006


that's ok. illinois is jealous of woollomooloo, just as new york is jealous of humpty doo.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:33 AM on September 15, 2006


d'oh. woolloomooloo.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:34 AM on September 15, 2006


I was 14 at the time & I remember thinking there's really, really no such thing as superman. Silly, heh. Later in the morning I remember thinking we're probably all going to die now, because I couldn't imagine the US gov't not going batshitinsane with revenge.

Since then it's been depressing watching the US take a lot of that revenge out on itself.
posted by zarah at 5:37 AM on September 15, 2006


By that logic, the Northern US was wrong to fight the separation of the South. Why should they have been forced to remain one, instead of 2? That was clearly a war of occupation, and now they should let the South go and form their own country.

From an outsiders perspective, a two-part USA would be a damn good thing.

For starters, the North part would likely have taken a whole lotta issues about social welfare — ranging from environmental concerns to personal freedoms to universal healthcare — a lot more seriously.

Instead, you've got a batshitinsane South fucking-over the entire country by allowing their South Baptist craziness to get into politics. Ugh.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:39 AM on September 15, 2006


Look at the Native Americans, especially in Canada: are they not in the same situation as the Basque? As the Taiwanese? The Kurds?

I dunno.

What I do know is that things would work better if we could get international agreement on a whole bunch of poorly-functioning borders. A lot of the mid-East mess is, IMO, due to the ignorantly-drawn lines from British rule.

And a thought: the best-functioning democracies in the world must share some commonalities. PFMA I'd guesstimate one of them is a population of >10M and <100m. low gini index, too. australia's election mechanism can't be beat. etc. there's a right way to divvy up this world. so far i think we've found most of the wrong ways.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:41 AM on September 15, 2006


however, this does not mean that tolerance & diversity cannot exist, or that multiculturalism is doomed to failure.

No one is saying that. It's really self-determination more than it's some "pure" thing or hatred of the other. It's oppression and how to alleviate it. It's up to the people themselves in the region, i think.

Some countries were multicultural from the start, or have constitutions or systems that allow for or even enhance diversity--many many others don't, and the lists of which are which change each year or decade, it seems. Look at Scotland--maybe that's one solution: more and more independence in a slow process after centuries of warfare, or how Catalonia is also getting more and more--maybe a loose flexible confederation or agreement is a better way than these artificial borders--let common interests decide instead. Look at how the EU is developing too.

What we have now in many places is simply intolerable and massively unfair and even deadly to ethnic minorities.
posted by amberglow at 8:49 AM on September 15, 2006


what fff said, in other words : >
posted by amberglow at 8:50 AM on September 15, 2006


Every country has been multicultural from the state. For example, Scotland, before joining England in 1707 (they had earlier evilly colonised England in 1604), already had Gaelic speakers, Scots (a dialect of English) speakers, and the islanders up north (who spoke a dialect of Norse). The "Scottish" identity is no less a fiction than the British one that would replace it. Why is it any more valid? Or maybe the Orkney islanders should have their own parliament.

The middle eastern mess isn't from the badly drawn British borders, it's from British colonial policy and the massive upheavel from the mass emmigration of Holocaust survivors and the setup of the state of Israel. It wasn't an empty land - and the people who were there started attacking the newcomers, who hit back harder, and then all the neighbours got involved and now its all just an insane mess. But it isn't the borders (which, after all, have been redrawn many, many times since 1947). The British and the Americans propping up dictators in places like Iran and Iraq, all in the name of fighting "communism" (aka repatriation of oil profits) really didn't help either.

Everyone wants to put it down to just borders -- and yes, they can be a problem. The artificial borders running through the Ferghana Valley -- where Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan all meet and have crazy intermixed borders - have caused huge problems. But those borders are so whacked and out of skew with local patterns of trade and movement (such that people have to change countries, sometimes twice, to get to the local market), because the Soviets insisted on trying to create "nations" from the local ethnic groups there, who had never lived in distinct nations and in fact got on quite well, intermarrying, etc. It's only since the borders were drawn that nationalism is developing in the area -- and it's causing huge trouble. (Inter ethnic conflict is also being spurred on by NGOs -- they offer money to help solve inter-ethnic conflict, so if any village wants some money, they go find some conflict to have).

The idea of creating ethnically "pure" areas is far more deadly to ethnic minorities than creating explicitly multicultural countries. The whole idea of nationalism is deadly to ethnic minorities. If you really want to protect minorities, throw off nationalism as the hateful, destructive ideology that it is. Embrace patriotism -- but only inclusive patriotism. No more "pure laine" nationalism of any kind.

The Catalans and Basques are rightly angry after the terrible oppression of their cultures and languages under Franco. But in present day Spain, their languages are now allowed, things are changing. What will separating do? Make them weaker and smaller. Maybe they will go the way of the nationalist Quebequois, and become prejudiced against any immigrants and non-Catalan or Basque. The active oppression of any language other than French has lead to the strangling of English Montreal, a community almost as old as French Montreal and an important centre of English Canadian culture (Mordechai Richler, Leonard Cohen both grew up there). There was a story a few years ago about a Jewish tombstone maker who was fined because he had Hebrew signs outside his shop which were larger than the French versions.

Making uni-ethnic states is not the way to gain tolerance, and in fact, I would say, promotes intolerance.

---------------
But a query -- Can you name any country on the planet, or in the history of the world, that is/was uni-ethnic?

Because neither I nor my husband (both history students) can. Well, he can think of one, but that would Godwin the thread.
posted by jb at 10:37 AM on September 15, 2006


Iceland. (Presumably by "uni-ethnic" you don't mean literally every single person descending from the exact same "bloodline," because that would be nuts.)
posted by languagehat at 10:42 AM on September 15, 2006


The whole idea of nationalism is deadly to ethnic minorities. If you really want to protect minorities, throw off nationalism as the hateful, destructive ideology that it is. Embrace patriotism -- but only inclusive patriotism. No more "pure laine" nationalism of any kind.
How can people feel or have patriotism at all in bad circumstances and in artificially created nations? Why should they? They haven't been included. Both nationalism and patriotism can be deadly or it can be a source of pride and a way to move forward instead of being stuck an oppressed minority forever. Europe especially makes it easy--the EU can be the overarching thing that makes tiny (even micro) countries completely feasible and workable.

As for us propping up dictators, we're just the latest in a line of nations doing so--micro-dictators would be much easier to handle and juggle and deal with diplomatically than an endless succession of corrupt puppets presiding over Brit colonial "nations", i think.

Human history is an endless series of upheavals where the oppressed become the oppressors--we're seeing it in Iraq and elsewhere now, and it'll turn again. Giving distinct groups a homebase will help prevent that, along with very strong regional and international orgs and actions.

As for Godwin-ing, it's no longer possible to eliminate an entire group of people because of WW2. Had there been an Israel before Hitler's rise, there would have been somewhere to go, even tho expulsion is bad too---it's not genocide. You can't really practice genocide on the scale we saw in the 20th century if there are places to go--places people can be, safely.
posted by amberglow at 11:57 AM on September 15, 2006


We're all tribal, and we all need a homebase.
posted by amberglow at 12:04 PM on September 15, 2006


Hitler's Germany was uni-ethnic? I always thought it was a federation built upon the suppression / unification of distinct regional ethnic identities - Bavarian, Schwabian etc.

The famous anthem, *Deutschland, Deutschland Uber Alles* is not actually a US-esqe "we're #1" song, as people like to think. It is meant to emphasise that the unified Germany should take precedence over local ethnic tensions & rivalries.

Naturlich, this involved the elevation of one flavour of German as the national language, and the discouragement or even deliberate death-by-attrition of the pre-existing local languages. In the same manner, though, German itself will eventually die away as Europanto becomes the official language of the European Federation.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:18 PM on September 15, 2006


Iceland is a good example - we hadn't thought of there. It is very rare, and only because it was a late human settlement. We also thought of some Pacific islands which would have been uni-ethnic until recently. But the vast majority of the world - Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe - have been multi-ethnic states, even when they claim not to be (e.g. Japan, which at times would have rathered forgotten about Ainu and Korean minorities).

But back to patriotism - amberglow, why do you keep insisting that people shouldn't feel patriotic about "artificial" state, when all states are artificial? Now, if you live in an oppressive state, there are lots of reasons not to be patriotic, though you may still love your country (the land and people). But just because you have an artificial state? When does it stop being artificial - was the US artificial until 1848, and then it's okay, it's natural?

Look at the Balkans. When did the violence begin? Not when they were Yugoslavia, despite those artificial borders (the "natural" ones clearly being the Austro-Hungarian empire, which existed for hundreds of years). But when they tried to go back to those so-called natural ethnic divisions.

We may be tribal, but we don't have to define our tribe by race. I'm Canadian, and I'm proud of it. I live in a young, artificial country, with borders (and sometimes even streets) laid out by someone thousands of miles away. But I know what my country stands for, and one of those things is that we embrace being a young artificial country with no ethnic basis. This is what patriotism means - finding things to be proud of in your country, not finding ways to break it up because you can't get along with your neighbours.

UbuRoivas - My husband (who knows more about this than I do) says that Germany was officially a uni-ethnic country - that's why they stripped all the people they deemed not to be German (like Jews) of their citizenship. I don't know how it applies to the expanded third reich.
posted by jb at 3:49 PM on September 15, 2006


amberglow, why do you keep insisting that people shouldn't feel patriotic about "artificial" state, when all states are artificial? Now, if you live in an oppressive state, there are lots of reasons not to be patriotic, though you may still love your country (the land and people). But just because you have an artificial state? When does it stop being artificial - was the US artificial until 1848, and then it's okay, it's natural?

Because patriotism based on things that aren't real or important or shared is meaningless, like many borders. I consider myself a New Yorker and i'm proud of that, but i'm not proud and have no "USA" patriotism at all. Why should i? We don't live up or according to our own laws and ideals. Most countries don't (Canada most often does, tho, i think, lately). Patriotism too often becomes jingoism or nationalism too quickly and too exclusively as well, with a "love it or leave it" quality, or most recently-- "agree with everything the leaders do or you're just as bad as terrorists and evildoers". We're not the freeest, richest, most creative nor best country on earth so why should i believe so? Based on what? A myth without basis in fact? Patriotism is nothing but an artificial sense of belonging--why bother when there are real ways to belong with real groups?
posted by amberglow at 4:00 PM on September 15, 2006


jb, in terms of connections and diversity our multiple and overlapping tribes are better than our nationalities anyway. We're all members of many disparate tribes--it's not just religion or ethnicity.
posted by amberglow at 4:02 PM on September 15, 2006


I've said it here before in the past, but the only things Americans really share is our consumerism--that's it.
posted by amberglow at 4:03 PM on September 15, 2006


I consider myself a New Yorker and i'm proud of that, but i'm not proud and have no "USA" patriotism at all. Why should i?

Your city has 12 million people within a couple hours drive of it. That's nearly half the population of Canada.

Little wonder New Yorkers kinda hold themselves separate from the rest of the country: they very well could be their own country!
posted by five fresh fish at 7:10 PM on September 15, 2006


Uni-ethnic? Wouldn't Japan come closest? Aside from the Ainu and the (imported as slaves) Koreans, didn't the Japanese keep 'others' out for centuries? Being an island helps.

Maybe we should consider making more islands.
posted by Surfurrus at 9:03 PM on September 15, 2006


amberglow : "I consider myself a New Yorker and i'm proud of that, but i'm not proud and have no 'USA' patriotism at all. Why should i?"

I agree with most stuff written here by you, and by people disagreeing with you (you're both making good arguments), but I don't understand this one part. Why do you find national patriotism to be nonsensical, but not city patriotism?
posted by Bugbread at 9:23 PM on September 15, 2006


Surfurrus - that's my point. Japan likes to present a uni-ethnic image, but it never has been. It's always included Ainu and Koreans and others. You can't just say "aside from", these people are part of the country, just as Okinawans (who are different in culture from the other islands) are as well. The uni-ethnic country is a very rare exception - Iceland, maybe some pacific islands before recent immigration.
posted by jb at 4:31 AM on September 16, 2006


amberglow -- please don't be offended if you have, but I am curious -- have you lived outside of the US for any length of time? Because I find that many people, like fish, don't really notice their country until forced to face it by living somewhere else. I wasn't really Canadian until I moved to the US and began to realise just what things I did share with every Canadian and not with anyone else. Actually, I had an earlier inkling from reading international boards like metafilter, but here the American voice is so strong you might not have the same effect.
posted by jb at 4:34 AM on September 16, 2006


Also - my friends from Europe didn't feel especially "European" until they lived in the US, and then (because there were so few of them) they found themselves looking to each other as "Europeans", even though some were French or English or Welsh or Italian. Actually, we non-Americans generally had a "not-American" tribal thing happening within our dormitory.
posted by jb at 4:38 AM on September 16, 2006


I have to agree with jb here. I'm not patriotic, but I do feel like an American. I never felt like that until having lived in Japan for a few years. I just never noticed that some of the aspects which I thought were basic human nature were actually American traits. And, Amberglow, from having met you in person, let me say that you struck me as very, very American (I'm not saying that in a bad way). Americans share much more than just their consumerism.
posted by Bugbread at 6:47 AM on September 16, 2006


Why do you find national patriotism to be nonsensical, but not city patriotism?

If you'll allow me, I think it's because you choose the city you live in, as well as whether or not you want to contribute to it or not. You have absolutely no choice in the country where you happened to have been born.

This also might explain a bit why naturalized Americans might have a somewhat more virulent strain of patriotism than those that are Americans by accident of birth. In some cases, at least.

Just for the record, patriotism is a good thing. It implies a sense of shared sacrifice to benefit the whole of a nation. Nationalism, OTOH is, for lack of a better word, evil. It means lifting one's nation above all others, at the cost of all others.
posted by Hypnic jerk at 7:55 AM on September 16, 2006


Because I find that many people, like fish, don't really notice their country until forced to face it by living somewhere else.

Whu? What makes you think I don't notice my country?
posted by five fresh fish at 9:04 AM on September 16, 2006


I've never lived anywhere else, but i travel all the time. Most Americans haven't lived abroad--i'd love to tho, believe me.

Sharing qualities is not patriotism--it would have to be the love of those things connected to or associated with a love of or to help the country. I share many more positive qualities with other New Yorkers, born and bred like me, but i don't think so with the country as a whole. There's only one thing i used to say about being brought up American as opposed to Europeans, based on all who i've met--we're brought up to be more striving and to achieve practical success-. Even that isn't to the benefit of the country but only for the benefit for ourselves. And it's because we have no safety net to catch us nor good social services, all things a country should provide, and things that would promote patriotism and shared goals. Whatever happened to the belief that any American could get to the top?
posted by amberglow at 10:46 AM on September 16, 2006


Also, i think there's something wrong with having to leave the country you're supposed to feel patriotic about to actually have those feelings (and i think what you're talking about isn't actually patriotism at all).
posted by amberglow at 10:48 AM on September 16, 2006


Being brought up differently than others and having certain shared common experiences is not patriotism unless you connect those back to the country and see them as a good or better thing.
posted by amberglow at 10:50 AM on September 16, 2006


I find that many people, like fish, don't really notice their country until forced to face it by living somewhere else. I wasn't really Canadian until I moved to the US and began to realise just what things I did share with every Canadian and not with anyone else.

We might as easily argue that, having lost their sense of being at home, expats immediately cease on the identity that presents itself. It doesn't help that Americans abroad are lumped together by the locals; when I lived in France, I spent a lot of time pretending to be Canadian, for instance, so as to duck that particular misrecognition. The prospect of being identified as an American was particularly daunting when I looked at how other Americans were acting.

In other words, the decision that some citizens make to fall back on national identities is not a universal confirmation of that identity. It's a matter of determining for oneself which differences make a difference, and I think that the buying capacity of most American tourists, combined with the penchant for exercising that capacity, makes the 'consumerist' label quite apropos.
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:26 AM on September 16, 2006


fff - I didn't mean you, I was thinking about that saying about how fish (actually gilled animals) don't notice the ocean because they are swimming in it. I just left it as an unfinished simile.
posted by jb at 12:26 PM on September 16, 2006


Hypnic jerk : "If you'll allow me, I think it's because you choose the city you live in, as well as whether or not you want to contribute to it or not. You have absolutely no choice in the country where you happened to have been born."

Eh? I didn't choose the city I was born in, it just happened. And I didn't choose the country I was born in, it just happened. And then I chose to leave the city I was born in. And then I chose to leave the country I was born in. And in (I think) another year, I will have the choice to change my citizenship as well (I won't do it, but I will have that ability).

amberglow : "Sharing qualities is not patriotism"

Yes, I think there was a little gap there. I didn't mean to say "Sharing qualities is patriotism", just "Setting aside pride and patriotism entirely, Americans do share more than just consumerism".

amberglow : "i think what you're talking about isn't actually patriotism at all"

It isn't. I didn't mean to give that impression. Leaving the USA didn't make me proud to be an American, nor patriotic about America. It did, however, make me feel American. That's all I was trying to say.

anotherpanacea : "I think that the buying capacity of most American tourists, combined with the penchant for exercising that capacity, makes the 'consumerist' label quite apropos."

I wasn't saying the consumerist label was not apropos. I was saying that saying "only consumerism is shared" was inapropos. Like, if someone said "the only thing that oranges and watermelons have in common is that they're round", and I said "No, they're also both food". That's not denying that they're round, but denying that the only thing they have in common is roundness.
posted by Bugbread at 6:58 PM on September 16, 2006


eh?
posted by fritx at 4:28 AM on September 28, 2006


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