The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

I don’t need anniversaries to remember

with 15 comments

Today is the day. My morning newspaper spent the entire cover and 29 pages to remember the “day that changed the world” as they put it.

But I don’t need an official anniversary as a reason to think about September 11 2001. I’m reminded of it every time I watch a movie that takes place in New York.

It’s the same thing every time: without thinking about it I check for the towers. Are they there? Or is there a gap where they should have been? Am I watching a before-movie or an after-movie?

And then the images come back and the recordings start playing in my head again. The plane – how strangely small it looks. The clouds of smoke and fire. People fleeing through the streets, their bodies covered with ashes, terror in their eyes. And the falling bodies. So small, like leaves falling from a tree.

I remember how I learned about what had happened. It was a beautiful afternoon in Stockholm and I was on my way to the railway station, heading home after an appointment at a job agency, which I hoped would lead me to a bright future.

This was long before my days as a podcast junkie, but I used to listen to radio a lot, and out of habit I plugged my little portable radio into my ears to listen to the news. At first I didn’t understand much of it. Someone talked about towers. He sounded confused and a bit scared. But after a while I got the picture. I got it and yet I didn’t get it.

It was a weird experience. Was this for real? I felt as if I was in a bubble. It was shortly after the event, maybe not more than 15 minutes, and the news hadn’t spread widely yet. People weren’t as quick at twittering and text messaging ten years ago as they are today and it was only because I happened to turn on my radio that I knew about it so early.

I examined the faces of everyone I met. All those happy, innocent faces in the street and on the train. To them it was still a day like any other. I knew something they didn’t and I wanted to tell them that the world had changed. For all I knew this could be the beginning of that third world war that I had grown up fearing so much, only that it turned out not to be between the US and Soviet Union, as we always thought it would be. But I didn’t know how to say it and I remained silent, stuck in my bubble.

There have been times over the years when 9/11 has been used for propaganda reasons, as a bad excuse for discrimination and warfare.

But this doesn’t diminish the empathy I feel for those who died and those who lost someone. It doesn’t diminish the horror I feel when I watch the falling bodies.

Written by Jessica

September 11, 2011 at 12:11 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

15 Responses

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  1. It’s weird how we now divide movies that take place in NY as before & after. Oh look, the twin towers: it must be an older movie.

    Every movie that took place in NY shows them at least once.


    September 11, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    • They definitely do. I never thought about it before this happened. Now my eyes always go that way when I watch old movies. I don’t need to look at the cover to figure out what year it’s from. I just look for the towers.


      September 11, 2011 at 4:21 pm

  2. I had the same feeling when I first heard, of just not getting it. I don’t know if I ever quite got it. I’ve seen footage and diagrams and all manner of statistics, but somehow it still seems distant and unreal. Part of it might be that I’ve only seen New York in person once, after 9/11, and wasn’t at Ground Zero, so I’ve never quite seen what was there, whether before the attacks or directly after. Maybe it’s just so awful that some part of my mind is trying to convince me that it never actually happened, that it is all just made-up stories and CG. And then I see people who actually believe that it didn’t happen, or didn’t happen as we think, and I am horrified by them.


    September 11, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    • It definitely steel feels unreal, no matter of how many times the pictures will run in my head. I’ve been to Ground Zero though, on my one visit to N.Y. It was many years after it happened, but it was still nothing but a big building area, surrounded by a fence. I was a little surprised at how little there was of information, a sign, anything. We went upstairs in a hamburger restaurant so we could see beyond it. But there really wasn’t much to see. Just this emptiness. There was nothing were there should have been something and that’s what makes it so heartbreaking.


      September 11, 2011 at 8:23 pm

  3. I’m with you Larísa. Everything that happened after 9/11 has left a very bitter taste in my mouth, so one can say the human tragedy only began there. but the horror of that day still makes my skin crawl, I remember well where I was that afternoon, by some weird coincidence actually having the news on TV switched on beside me as the first plane hit, so I watched things in ‘real-time’. I remember my brother called and how I told him to switch on the news, it was so unreal.
    I usually change channel these days when there’s yet another documentary, but this last week I watched several hours of a very detailed summary report on everything that happened in chronological order on Saturday; it was painful to watch. a German reporter that only just escaped the south tower 15mins before it collapsed, described the nightmare of the falling bodies and how the news agency actually decided to stop showing them on-screen, because it felt so wrong and ‘impious’ to trespass into what was such a profoundly sad and final moment in a person’s life. I cannot bear to imagine the desperation and utter loneliness a person must feel in those last minutes before making the decision to jump. there are no words for this.


    September 12, 2011 at 12:25 am

    • I’ve wondered that too, what thoughts that crossed their mind. Maybe it was about taking control over your death. The terrorists could rob you of everything but not of that final decision. Or maybe they hoped for a miracle to happen, something soft catching them on their way down. I wonder if I’d have the courage to make the jump. Hopefully I’ll never know. Anyway: thinking about them makes me very, very sad.


      September 12, 2011 at 7:34 am

  4. I have come to the conclusion I am a little odd – I never ever notice the skyline of New York in films (or documentaries). Even when the towers are present it barely registers. Skyscrapers, even big ones, don’t seem to distinguish themselves to me.

    But I remember the day. I remember feeling in the days afterwards the world changing. I remember the late 90s of being a time of almost-innocence, the naïvete of the hope of the new millenium. When I think back to that day, I am sorrowful, as I always am, of why it is the best in human nature is only displayed alongside moments of the very worst.

    Lewis Maskell

    September 12, 2011 at 9:41 am

    • The strange thing is that even if the world changed, we didn’t turn completely cynical, always expecting the worst after it. Somehow a bit of the innocence returned, at least for me. When the mass murder in Norway took place this summer, I was in shock and felt once again as if something just had broken. I guess that’s how we survive. Our dreams and illusions shatter but we keep rebuilding them over and over again.


      September 12, 2011 at 10:04 am

  5. I agree with you we don’t need reminding of that fateful day. It is good to look back though and remember the day that changed humanity in the western world forever.

    10 years of war and counting…At least we knew what and whom we were fighting for in WW2. Afghanistan is such a pointless battle. Anyway I am sorry for talking about war.

    Films will never be the same either. I am always hearing the phrase ‘….for the post 9/11 generation’ and it is true. A lot of the innocence has gone in film. Things were shinier in the 90s. Or am I wildly generalising? Probably.

    I am not very clever I am afraid Jessica and my comments reflect my lack of brain power. I can never get what I am trying to say out without sounding thick and rude!!



    Scott Lawlor

    September 12, 2011 at 11:10 am

    • Lack of brain power? That’s rubbish. You share your emotions and thoughts very nicely. I on the other hand feel quite clumsy, but I blame it on writing in a foreign language. It’s difficult when you get to emotional, under-the-skin kind of topics. Anyway: I don’t think either of us should be afraid of sounding rude. I think what we really feel about it will come through all the layers of words anyway.


      September 12, 2011 at 1:30 pm

  6. I remember being at home when it happened, the television was on, whether my father had rung us to tell us. I had work later that day, I worked casually at a regional newspaper office then. I didn’t want to leave my husband, I didn’t want to let go of him for one moment as it smashed into our brains how fragile life can be. Being in the office for the rest of the afternoon was horrendous, the shocked and muted buzz stabbed at my emotions, and I wanted only to be back home.

    I do much the same as you, regarding films in New York. And I find it odd to watch a film with the towers standing. Seeing them still reminds me of all the frightening images from that day and I feel a huge wave of sympathy for those who have lost loved ones in it, those unlikely to forget, not allowed to move on because of the coverage of it, because of the inadvertant symbolism of those towers.


    September 12, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    • Yes, I recognize the instinct to assemble the family and stay together. I asked my daughters about what they remembered from the day. And that was that their father came to school and picked them up early. “He was very upset”. Yeah. We were all. And there was really no way to hide it.


      September 12, 2011 at 1:32 pm

  7. Having commuted into the bowels of the World Trade Center every day of my early working life, I have (and will) never forget that day or the people lost. Amongst everything else, a little innocence was lost that day and I truly feel like I’m a different person (not in a positive way) as a result of that day. May our friends rest in peace and God have mercy on the souls of the offenders because I sure as hell never will.


    September 12, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    • I can truthfully say that I’ll never forget that day or the people lost either. It’s like a tattoo. An ugly one, I’d rather not have.


      September 13, 2011 at 12:13 am

  8. […] United 93 is on the list because it’s the best movie I’ve seen about a day that changed the world as I knew it forever. […]

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