What We Remember From 9/11, Ten Years Later


9-11-hatBy Meghan C. Gurdon

We all know where we were. We can remember that morning with near exactitude, if we make the effort. It was a day when the weather felt like a happy cliche, the sky that particular shade of rich blue that only ever seems to come in September, the air just cooling as autumn gently pushed summer aside. My family happened to be living in Toronto at the time. I had a newborn and a toddler at home; my husband had just left to take the older two to school. That lovely morning I was puttering around the kitchen, half-listening to the voice of the American draft dodger who hosted the CBC’s big morning news show. Just after 8:30 a.m., the station began airing a pretaped interview with some provincial official.

I think I was wiping down a countertop when, close to 9 a.m., the interview ended and the now-live voice of the host remarked that he had just seen some extraordinary television pictures from New York.

(It was a minor scandal, later: A jumbo jet had ploughed into the World Trade Center, yet CBC producers waited politely for a canned interview to run its course before telling listeners about the biggest news story in 40 years.)

I scooped up the children, hurried upstairs and flicked on the television. On CNN, then the default channel for Americans abroad, a fellow named Aaron Brown was talking with calm incredulity. Then the camera shifted back to the World Trade Center.

A second plane disappeared into the vast corrugated side of the south tower. It felt like the world itself gasped at the sight.

The phone rang. Had I seen? It rang again. Did I know? My husband called. A close friend called. For a while, she and I stood in our respective houses, staring at the same images on our screens, each holding a phone and neither saying anything into it. I remember looking outside. Impossibly, it was still a beautiful day.

Within hours, border crossings between the U.S. and Canada were closed. It was dreadful, knowing that I couldn’t get back even if I tried.

At the same time, people in Toronto started putting American flags in the windows of their houses and apartments. Who would have guessed there were so many Old Glories folded up in so many Canadian closets?

Who would have dreamed that the cranky, anti-American streak in Canadian society ran alongside such powerful brotherly affection?

It didn’t last, of course. Sept. 11 became “contextualized.” Only a few days after the attacks, the first Canadian academic crept out from beneath her tenured rock to suggest that, after all, the U.S. had it coming.

Alas, that was about the same time that some American liberals began formulating their own sinister understanding of the mass murder al-Qaida had inflicted on their countrymen.

Only four months after the attacks, leftists (including an activist named Van Jones) organized a march in San Francisco to demand an investigation into White House complicity.

On this anniversary, it’s worth unpacking our memories. Eight years is a long time. In 2001, no one had heard of Facebook because it hadn’t been invented. Barack Obama was just an Illinois state senator. Saddam Hussein enjoyed complete power in Iraq. The
Taliban spent its time dynamiting priceless antiquities and flogging people.

It’s not enough to remember as a general idea that America was attacked out of a clear blue sky on Sept. 11, 2001. It’s not enough to have it fixed in one’s interior timeline, as a historical event the political effects of which are still reverberating. It’s important that we revisit what it was really like, how it really felt, so that, in the tumult of events, we don’t lose the awful clarity of that day.

What do you remember?

{The Examiner/Matzav.com Newscenter}