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.