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Monday, September 5, 2011

9/11 – How Has It Changed Us?

ACTOR AND ACTIVIST, Matt Damon, on 9/11: “That day is seared into who I am more than I’d even like. It was weird because I stepped outside my apartment, looked up and saw it happening and then went back in and just watched CNN because I just wanted information. I remember everything about that day.”

Ten years on and so much has changed in our world; most for the good. But post-Global Financial Crisis, and with much ballooning debt, do we feel safer? Perhaps not that way, but at least it’s a more sanitised version of insecurity.

For Americans, September 11 will always be etched into the psyche of a national history that neither needed it, nor was at the time prepared for it. But nevertheless it shaped the nation and the ripples were felt indelibly over the whole globe.

It would be unfair to single out one event as responsible for so much change. But, the September 11, 2001, event certainly has been the biggest this millennium thus far. The Boxing Day 2004 tsunami, and the more recent tsunami off Japan—whilst incomprehensible in environmental magnitude—still have not been, or will not be, catalysts for change as September 11, 2001, was.

Remembering Where We Were

Just about everybody who was old enough remembers where they were and what they were doing when those twin towers were struck and collapsed; besides the attacks on the Pentagon and the ill-fated United 93 flight where passengers, in overcoming the terrorists, bravely brought the aircraft down.

Strange as it seems, I was oblivious to the event, only learning about it more than twelve hours later. But one didn’t need to be a witness to the actual events to witness the world’s response. There is no question, this event changed the world overnight.

Wherever we were on that history-changing day meant we could watch it unfold before our eyes, live on CNN, CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX or any other network. No matter how terrifying the event was, we, like Matt Damon, wanted more information.

Remembering where we were is an important part of our personal, familial, and national history. It defines or redefines us, securing us in our identity. We become different because of it. The reactions of the others who were around us during those terrifying minutes and the disbelieving hours that ensued radiated into our memories.

They shared an intimacy with us, and thus we with them, which is a rare glimpse.

What Will the 10th Anniversary Mean?

As the hands reach vertical, the chiming of precise moments, we have unfathomable grounds to reflect. Something so horrific happened, and no matter how much we want to reminisce over those events (to honour the fallen) we cannot do it to our satisfaction.

Depending on our proximity to the event, or to the people affected by it, we’ll draw a commensurate log of reminiscent displeasure for loss.

The anniversary will be yet another milestone for so many; another one further down the track toward the reconciliation of acceptance. Time, however, will not dim the losses endured that day for time in memoriam.

For many the date will approach, then come, and go just as quickly. Time always marches forward one tick at a time, even though some would prefer it to halt—for reflection—even for five minutes.


There is a solemnity enshrined in 9/11 that ineradicably changes us. In our right minds we’re still stunned. Perhaps our eyes are opened, afresh, to the preciousness of life.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

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