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Tuesday, 11 September 2007

On this day six years ago...

Knowing the time difference, it would have been September 12 for me already when I found out. At the time I was cold, I admit. The tragedy was far away, people die halfway around the world from you all the time, and I was busy absorbing the political implications.

They had the TV on in our music classroom, CNN I think it was, with the class sort of crowded around it, and I caught the view of the tower with its cloud of smoke over many people's shoulders before retreating from the crowd as is typical for me in times of stress. Weeks later, I heard a newsreader say "You've seen all those pictures, too many times ... " I hadn't. Just that one glimpse. We don't have a TV at home.

My history teacher from the year before was a wry, sharp-witted man, full of stories and opinions and off-hand comments. We had studied the origins of World War II. "The Japanese made a big mistake, bombing Pearl Harbour," he had said. "It was all very well expanding into the Pacific, but Pearl Harbour was American territory. And the Americans, well, if you hit them, they hit back. You mark my words, they'll take an eye for an eye, and then some."

Pearl Harbour is way out in the middle of the Pacific. The World Trade Center is in the middle of New York. Compare psychological magnitude. I had a sudden vision of the Americans thumping around desperately in their desire for revenge, trying to figure out who to hit. It would take a president with leadership skills of incredible magnitude to reign in that impulse, I thought. Then I remembered the president of the United States was George W. Bush. "This is an act of war," he declared. "Figures," I thought, and held my breath. For a while I thought they might be able to take it all out on Afghanistan.

Ah, well.

And then a few months ago I saw this clip here and realised how cold, how cold I was. And I wished I'd seen and felt the grief of New Yorkers at the time. But better late than never.


Alon Levy said...

I don't know how old you were at the time... but I was 13, and for a while I really liked the idea of going to war, even though I'd wanted Gore to win in 2000. I became disillusioned with this only in the next summer, as on the one hand Bush was talking about Iraq and on the other I was reading strong arguments why war on it was a futile step.

Lynet said...

Sixteen. As far as I was concerned the war on Iraq was insane. I couldn't believe they were doing it. I also hated the way they bypassed the UN, and was suspicious of the WMD claims from the first. Not that I thought they were fighting for oil. As far as I could see, America needed somebody to hit and Iraq was nicely pre-demonised.

It makes a difference where you are, though. I remember when I was thirteen and the New Zealand papers were all "oh, they'd better be careful about this" with regard to the intervention in Kosovo. Then we moved to Scotland temporarily (my father, an academic, was on sabbatical) and the atmosphere was along the lines of "let us righteously intervene in this terrible situation" sort of thing. Same news sources, but different pundits.

L.L. Barkat said...

We all grieve in tragedy. But we don't all believe this about each other. Which is what makes revenge easier to pursue.