One Dozen Years Later
September 11, 2013 6:27 AM   Subscribe

9/11 was twelve years ago. Metafilter hosted amazing collaborative citizen journalism of the event as it happened.
posted by double block and bleed to MetaFilter-Related at 6:27 AM (138 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

Including one of the most prescient comments ever made on MetaFilter.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:55 AM on September 11, 2013 [14 favorites]


I wasn't a Mefite then, but I was here. I was at home on "standby" with my temp agency; I lived about a mile from the Towers, and I heard the impact of both planes as they hit.

This is probably the very first year this day has come around and it has felt just like an ordinary day for me. You have no idea how much of a relief that is.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:56 AM on September 11, 2013 [29 favorites]


I tried to read through the thread, but I had to stop. I got a tight feeling in my chest reading people's early attempts to sift through the deluge of incomplete and sometimes inaccurate information with the benefit of my hindsight. I'm not sure why that in particular made me emotional.
posted by C'est la D.C. at 7:02 AM on September 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


This is probably the very first year this day has come around and it has felt just like an ordinary day for me. You have no idea how much of a relief that is.

It would be nice if this post had also not been made, which would have made it even more of an ordinary day.

Thanks for the reminder, I guess, but was there really any risk that we'd forget? Just let it go.
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:03 AM on September 11, 2013 [17 favorites]


Bunny Ultramod: Including one of the most prescient comments ever made on MetaFilter.

I'm sure a lot of us were thinking the same thought as soon as that second plane hit. I know I was.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:03 AM on September 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure how to say this without sound disrespectful, and that's certainly not my intent. But it didn't make sense to start another MetaTalk thread about a MetaTalk post.

Are we setting a difficult precedent by allowing "anniversary" posts about old FPP's that consist of nothing but a link back to the FPP? Is there a level of magnitude of the original FPP that makes this acceptable? On the tenth anniversary of my favorite puppy video post can I do a Metatalk linking back to it? (tongue in cheek statement to establish two ends of the spectrum and perhaps establish where the bar is located on this)

I guess this just seems odd to me, and perhaps worth discussing...

Again, my question here has nothing to do with how I feel about 9/11, this is procedural in nature only.
posted by HuronBob at 7:14 AM on September 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Just let it go.

I think that's the wrong attitude. By not reflecting on the situation, however painful it may be, we make it easy for other people to rewrite what happened.

Every year, I think about how much further removed we are from that event. There are now 12 year old kids who will only know about that day through the stories we choose to tell.
posted by C'est la D.C. at 7:15 AM on September 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I mean, 12 years, so what? Then again, I roll my eyes at the yearly "cat scan" post, too, so don't mind me.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 7:21 AM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Are we setting a difficult precedent by allowing "anniversary" posts about old FPP's that consist of nothing but a link back to the FPP?

I'm not too worried about precedent in this sense; we're not formally bound by what's happened before in any way, there's no practical concern that anniversary posts will someday become a big problematic thing that we won't be able to grapple with on account of having let some through previously. If it becomes an issue, we'll deal with it then.

For now, this is an odd confluence of US/global culture and Metafilter history. That sort of thing gets talked about in Metatalk now and then, and as an occasional thing that's okay. Throw it in the same bin of oddities as CAPS LOCK DAY and the yearly catscan birthday post and don't worry about it overly much just for worrying's sake, is my suggestion.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:23 AM on September 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


"It would be nice if this post had also not been made, which would have made it even more of an ordinary day."

If you don't want to be in this thread you could have always chosen not to click the link, and even now you can still choose to close the tab, in fact I'd recommend it.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:27 AM on September 11, 2013 [11 favorites]


Cortex, thanks for the response...
posted by HuronBob at 7:28 AM on September 11, 2013


my greatest fear is how our government is going to respond. more erosion of freedom in the name of security. mark my words.

Other times this has been stated:
Pearl Harbor, December 1941
Fort Sumter, 1861
Shays Rebellion, 1786
posted by Renoroc at 7:29 AM on September 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


By not reflecting on the situation, however painful it may be, we make it easy for other people to rewrite what happened.

Meh. You want a story?

I was in the subway, headed to work at the Civilian Complaint Review Board a couple blocks south of the towers, in the financial district. We didn't get out for what seemed like forever: the car filled with smoke and dust as (I now know) the towers collapsed. When I emerged, I headed to work (closed, obviously) and then walked towards the collapsed towers until I couldn't breath, then turned around. I needed to get to Harlem but the way north was blocked. The sky was black, and everything was covered in ashes, including me.

The streets were full of expensive women's shoes, discarded as they ran. I took brief refuge in an office building, borrowed a phone, and called my partner. Then, I joined the other survivors trudging home: the subways were working, slowly, above Union Square, so I stopped at the Target there, drank some water and got on the train. I arrived home sometime in the late afternoon, and then I slept.

I don't remember much over the next few weeks: our building was inside the "crime scene" so we couldn't go back to work for a while. I think I played video games for a while, and I know I took the GREs (there was a bomb threat in the middle, so we filed out to the street, then returned to finish when the building was cleared. I've always wondered if someone used the bomb threat to get the answers or switch test-takers.)

Which part of that story needs reflection?

If you don't want to be in this thread you could have always chosen not to click the link, and even now you can still choose to close the tab, in fact I'd recommend it.

Thanks! That's really helpful and generous.
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:31 AM on September 11, 2013 [22 favorites]


I wish I had known about Metafilter then. It would have probably helped me through that day, but as I didn't have a home computer (I know, crazy, right?), I would have not been able to read the thread after leaving my office and walking back to my uncharacteristically quiet neighborhood just a few blocks north of Canal.

I am not going to read the original thread right now, and am doing my best to avoid the media today. While I generally do not like talking about the events of that day, as well as the days that followed, I do feel a responsibility to be a witness for those who were not in the city, or who were too young to remember.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 7:31 AM on September 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:34 AM on September 11, 2013


Metafilter: Don't worry about it overly much just for worrying's sake, is my suggestion.
posted by Melismata at 7:36 AM on September 11, 2013


Which part of that story needs reflection?

I don't know, but sincerely, thanks for telling it.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:37 AM on September 11, 2013 [15 favorites]


I still remember the first anniversary of it, sitting around in the opening days of my freshman year in college, maybe two miles from my high school where I watched the smoke rise from Manhattan toward Brooklyn. Everyone stopped playing Super Smash Bros. for a hot second to watch the memorial news report, and I thought "wow, time goes by so fast, I can't believe it's been a whole year."

Now it is twelve whole years later and every year, on the anniversary, it still feels like it just happened.
posted by griphus at 7:37 AM on September 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Seconding Potomac Avenue, thank you for sharing that, anotherpanacea.
posted by C'est la D.C. at 7:48 AM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Are we setting a difficult precedent by allowing "anniversary" posts about old FPP's that consist of nothing but a link back to the FPP?

Maybe? It's fine. MetaTalk is optional for everyone but the mods.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:56 AM on September 11, 2013


OP here. Living then, as I do now, far away in flyover country, it's easy for me to forget how reminders of these events tear open old wounds for the Mefites who were physically there. That wasn't my intent and I am sorry for those who feel that way. My main purpose was to showcase an amazing moment in Metafilter history.
posted by double block and bleed at 7:57 AM on September 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


I know I can be a bit of a jerk about this day. (I posted a demand for a moratorium on the fifth anniversary. At this point I know it's useless to protest, but sometimes I do useless things.) The truth is that I was pretty lucky: our train wasn't right under the towers when they collapsed, so we were just inconvenienced (and scared.) One guy from my office died. I try to think about him, today, and also to take Judith Butler's advice not to obsess on narratives that start Tuesday morning, but instead to think about the stories that go back decades that led us all there.
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:57 AM on September 11, 2013 [27 favorites]


Favoriting anotherpanacea's comment above times a million
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 7:59 AM on September 11, 2013


There were over fourteen 9/11s in 2001 on our nation's roads. If only there were a global war on automobiles.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:03 AM on September 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


I wasn't a Mefite then, but I was here.

Me too. It was a bit weird because at the time I was working with a bunch of architects and they all knew the buildings were going to fall down and in exactly the manner in which they did (pancaking down floor by floor). And by they all knew I mean several of them independently predicted it to me before the first collapse. Apparently the two towers were well studied because of both the innovative at the time construction and also the status of the building documents being available at low cost (public domain maybe?)

Because of this it was somewhat surreal seeing comments here and else where speculating about what happened while knowing the truth of it.
posted by Mitheral at 8:05 AM on September 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


And by they all knew I mean several of them independently predicted it to me before the first collapse.

I was in an engineering class when it happened -- or, when there was enough actual information to know what happened -- and our engineering teacher did the exact same thing. He just postponed class and explained about metal fatigue, and heat, and told us blow-by-blow what would be happening. He was one of the single most respected teachers in the school, and I'm pretty sure he inoculated a good 60-90 kids against (the not-yet-named) trutherism that day.
posted by griphus at 8:07 AM on September 11, 2013 [26 favorites]


9/11 is one of those things that for me, seems so long ago and just yesterday at the same time.

I wasn't alive for Pearl Harbor, or nearby or emotionally invested in any other more recent tragedy, so for better or worse, this day is crystallized in my head.

On that day, it was a moment of dreamlike fear and anxiety, with equal servings of helplessness, anger and "holy shit!"

Now, with the camera's view of hindsight, I view it as a microcosm of the human condition: Strength and frailty, togetherness and selfishness, ego and altruism, anger and love, confusion and harmony... All occurring at the same time, sometimes within the same individuals.

I'm of many minds of the annual 9/11 remembrances. Part of me just wishes these memorials would go away, and yet as a resident located in NYC in 2001, its also a strange emotional badge that gets dusted off from time to time, especially now that I'm not in NYC anymore, and many of those around me don't have personal anecdotes about experiencing that day which aren't limited to CNN and frantic long distance phone calls.

But today, I ask myself, why would I want these remembrances to "just go away?"

In the past, I have often used more recent events and the long forgotten deaths of others offered up as a self righteous comparison inquiring why certain groups of deaths are more "important" than others, the perceived self-importance of survivors, emergency workers and family members of those killed, and the pandering of news outlets for ad dollars. These things may be true to a certain extent, but why, in this instance, compared to the countless other examples of these, am I so particularly bothered by it? Why do I feel a subdued, but intense irritation at those who reminisce about and memorialize 9/11 when they viewed it from the safety of their living rooms in Connecticut?

This memory, this day, belongs to me. If I own it, I control it, and I do not fear that which I control.

It's terrifying to think that I live in a world in which one can wake up on a beautiful, sky blue day, head to work in the same fashion as done for years, and mere hours later be attempting to scale down the outside of a burning skyscraper, not due to a natural disaster, or accident, but simply because of what someone else believed.

I can choose where I live to minimize natural disasters, I can take steps to avoid accidents, but one thing I have no control over is what you believe, and this scares me.

To the critics of 9/11 remembrances, which honestly can include myself, I offer you this nugget:

There is no tragedy so great, nor joy so sublime, which will not yield to the grindstone of time.

We will forget. Not likely for those directly impacted by these events, but we will forget, because that is what we do. But we will continue to be affected, and it is important to remember why we were affected and what happened. Not to memorialize, but to recognize.
posted by Debaser626 at 8:08 AM on September 11, 2013 [10 favorites]


The NYT and CNN being slammed that morning, I followed the news with that thread and The Guardian. I have no desire to read it again. I wrote this the next year.

Mostly what I think of now is how, when I was sorting through my dad's WWII collection after his death just a few years after September 11th, I sort of suddenly realized what kind of grasp history had had on the man who had been a boy on December 7, 1941.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:13 AM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


On September 11, 2001, I was in a small training centre in a Toronto suburb, teaching a class on FrontPage 98. When the class started at 9 AM, I had my students pull up my usual example of a web site, Yahoo! News. The main story was about a plane crash in Manhattan. We all said something like "Wow -- that's an awful accident", and then I had them turn away from the web and start working with their crappy, crappy software.

Shortly after 9, the receptionist walked in to tell us that a second plane had crashed. She came in a few times more to report on the Pentagon crash, the first tower collapse, then the second. Class continued anyway, because Toronto.

I tried to get Internet news at the morning break, then lunch break, but most major sites weren't working. I think MeFi was a little creaky, but this site and (go figure) the Howard Stern show on Q107, which I pulled in via my radio / walkman, were my only aggregate sources of news and rumours for hours that day.

My memories of that day are bound up with so much outdated tech and media that it really does feel like a long time ago. I feel for those of you who were so much closer to the event in many ways and who still feel as if it happened yesterday.
posted by maudlin at 8:13 AM on September 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Not everything about that day is tied up in the trauma, especially when it comes to MetaFilter.

It's hard to remember just how new the idea of "crowdsourced journalism" was at that moment in time. It's commonplace now, but in 2001 there had been few large-scale events that also occurred in a culture with a heavy "internet culture".

What we are seeing in the 9/11 thread is humanity struggling to contextualize something terrible, yes, and those experiences are important. But there's a case to be made that there's an even larger experience occurring in that thread, which is the presentation of events as they occur by people who are directly involved in the event.

We see all the good and all the flaws on display, and it's interesting that, even 12 years on, some of those issues remain intractable (q.v. the Boston marathon bombings and aftermath). We see wild guesses about motives and actors, and we see the observations of people who are experiencing events in a vacuum, without any context.

We also see a kind of collective on-the-fly aggregation of experiences and narratives emerging.

It was a watershed moment for the entire Internet, but also for MetaFilter as a community: a thing happened to MetaFilter, instead of in front of MetaFilter, and that marks a large evolution in The Internet.
posted by scrump at 8:22 AM on September 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


I read that whole thread for the first time a few days ago. I was also in NYC when it happened and it's only recently that I've been able to go back and look at the news reports and discussions from that day with any kind of critical distance. Reading the thread gave me chills - I've never quite seen a major world event documented in real time in that way...there was a sense of the event -and our current moment - crystallizing and solidifying before my eyes. Like, the moment of possibility that it was just an accident, followed by the certainty that it wasn't, and the speculation giving way to the truth, and the vague rising sense of what was coming next - the comments about national security and eroding freedoms, yes, but also the dawning revelation that people were going to be looking back on that moment for years and years. The comment that really made the back of my neck tingle was one I can't find now that said something along the lines of, "I wonder what people ten years from now are going to make of this day," and it was like the commenter could feel my eyes on him all the way from here, a dozen years distant.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 8:25 AM on September 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


I wasn't aware of MetaFilter back then, but I did follow the day on Slashdot (with Aaron Brown igniting his career on the TV in the other room).

The thing that struck me about that day was how it felt that the world had been knocked sideways off its tracks and into a busy kind of limbo or stasis. It was exhilarating. You could feel that the authorities sensed it too -- what now? What next?

By the time of the President's speech that night the feeling had passed, the world put back on its course, lines of authority and communication re-established.

Another moment that sticks was the sound of a jet airplane high above, late that night and many hours after the "ground stop" brought all air transport to a halt. Who could that be? Who could it be but an American jet fighter patrolling the vacant sky.
posted by notyou at 8:26 AM on September 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


scrump: It's hard to remember just how new the idea of "crowdsourced journalism" was at that moment in time.

It's interesting to see how many pleas there were in the thread for people to "post news as it comes in." No one would even think to ask that today, as it's just what we do.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:43 AM on September 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


John Stewart said it all 9 days after.

This is what I remembered the most once the sheer shock had warn off. While I wasn't in the city that day, I was on a college campus a Metro North ride away with many students and faculty from NYC. I won't ever forget that day, but today is the first time it's come around where I don't feel the wounds so deeply, where the significance of the day is not met with the immediate reaction to cry or to retell my entire day ---- this year it's a quieter, more sobered tone. It's the first time that day is a memory and not a flashback. I think that is, in part, what recovering is.
posted by zizzle at 8:46 AM on September 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


It just hit me. Next year, there will be children the age I was in 2001 who were born after the attacks. Mindblowing. There are people who can vote now who were barely in kindergarten that year.
posted by Night_owl at 9:15 AM on September 11, 2013


Were a child conceived during the series premiere of the X-Files, they could have voted in the last presidential election.
posted by griphus at 9:17 AM on September 11, 2013


This is the first year I noticed no media attention leading up to the anniversary, and many media outlets aren't running with it as the headline. Which is a huge relief to me. I do hope it is less every year.
posted by agregoli at 9:19 AM on September 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


On the night before 9/11, I had been at a special church service, with a special speaker from Uganda.

I don't think I ever told any of you this, but that night, I opened my Bible-I like to read a bit of it before I go to bed-and for whatever reason I read Isaiah 30.

Verse 25 of that chapter goes like this, in the New American Standard:


On every lofty mountain and on every high hill there will be streams running with water on the day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall


I distinctly remember lingering on that verse for a minute, that night, but then I continued reading and didn't give it much other thought.

Until midmorning the next day.

Of course I know that wasn't really referring to what happened on 9/11, maybe someone here knows what the Biblical context was, but it still gave me the chills.


A lot has happened in the last 12 years. What a heartbreaking line of demarcation it was.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:24 AM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Were a child conceived during the series premiere of the X-Files...its parents would have to be pretty weird.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:26 AM on September 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Every year when the "Never Forget" graphics come rolling around, I always think the same thing: I hope the people who survived it can forget. For a moment, or a minute, or maybe a whole blissful day at a time. That's what trauma does, that's how it marks you: you never forget. Some part of you is always there. Survivors need some distance, so they can simply be themselves, instead of themselves in light of the trauma.

So, contrary to everything: forget, for a little while, and be at peace.
posted by cmyk at 9:28 AM on September 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


its parents would have to be pretty weird.

I dunno, you get to that scene where Scully in a bathrobe knocks on Mulder's motel room door and is all "hey, I need you to take a look at my butt" and things just sort of get out of hand from there.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:31 AM on September 11, 2013 [23 favorites]


MetaTalk has a bundle of annual posts including 9/11, the aforementioned cat scan, Mod birthdays, fantasy football challenge, holiday gift drive, the December awesome post, and so on. While the annual 9/11 post is in some ways different as most of the others are light and positive things, perhaps all these annual posts are a good thing on MetaTalk. They provide a kind of calendar with which MeFites, as they age, find familiar; bring forth new introspections in the comments every year; and, to some, provide an outlet. They form a quieter balance against the "Why did you delete my post/comment?" MetaTalk posts. And they are always optional, both to read and to comment on.

I'm (currently) English. 9/11 was spent in Glasgow, several thousand miles away from New York, in my (Scottish) ex's apartment. We watched it on the TV, puzzled (waiting for Tony Blair to give an important speech about unions, but that was cancelled) and worried about how this would escalate, who the enemy actually was, whether there would be war. Even though we split up a few years ago, we still email each other on September 11th every year with a recollection of that day, and I watch the commemoration online.

Observing reactions to 9/11 by ordinary people (not politicians) nudged me a little further in complex thinking towards considering becoming an American citizen, and a little further away from being English/a Brit. Some of the sometimes-muddled emotions and feelings of that time resurfaced when seeing and reading (on MetaFilter and elsewhere) about the events in Boston this April gone. And, especially considering that two of the five most commented posts on MetaFilter are about it, it's reasonable to expect annual posts on Boston at least next year, maybe for several more years.
posted by Wordshore at 9:34 AM on September 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hands up who got beaten to the punch by a better Chilean coup post!
posted by Artw at 9:41 AM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


What's strikes me most about that thread, re-reading it today, is just how ... much shorter it seems than I remember. I suppose it has something to do with the epic threads that have come between now and then (didn't Fukushima result in three separate, 1000+ comment threads?), but I remember that page just going on and on and on ... and revisiting it, it almost seems concise.
posted by jbickers at 9:47 AM on September 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


I wish I'd been a MeFi then.

The day is burned into my memory because a high school classmate was on one of the planes that went into the towers, a law school classmate was in his office in one of the towers, a close friend's relative was in the Pentagon, and I watched the second plane hit the World Trade Center on our TV as my husband predicted the building collapses that we next watched happening.

Also I used to work in a building facing the towers, which was gutted by what happened, and I used to love visiting Windows on the World, for whose kitchen staff I still mourn.

I admit I am bloodthirsty and angry enough stilll that I think today of Osama bin Laden and am glad again that he finally paid the price for this attack.

But it isn't a day I'm interested in forgetting or minimizing. It also turned our history in a dreadful and unexpected way toward abandonment of constitutional liberties and unwarranted warmaking. I think often as well of the alleged old Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times." I don't want to forget how we headed in this direction, because I continue to wonder how we can move back toward liberty and peace.
posted by bearwife at 9:47 AM on September 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


I had a brilliant 9/11. I emerged from a couple of weeks in proper deep outback Australia, drove to a nice little coastal town where I got a shower, some proper food and a cold beer. And then I went to bed.

When I woke up the next day, it was clear something had happened from the buzz on the campground. I couldn't get much sense out of the car radio but eventually found some a news bulletin. By that point the events in New York were more than 10 hours old and the talking heads were no longer discussing what had happened but had moved onto the emergency response and the American response.

It took another hour or two before I could piece together a sequence of events. I didn't see any footage at all for another couple of days, when I caught a TV news bulletin.

Even though I had been living in Manhattan 12 months before and had friends affected by the events - including one who organised a conference at Windows on the World for 9/11 and had flown home on the evening of 9/10, leaving colleagues there to run the event - it isn't the visceral "do you remember what you were doing" experience for me. 9/11 happened to other people. But the experience of 9/11 also happened to other people. The events were horrible, but I'm glad I didn't live them as they happened, even at the distance of a tv screen.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:55 AM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


it's easy for me to forget how reminders of these events tear opens old wounds for the Mefites who were physically there. That wasn't my intent and I am sorry for those who feel that way.

I actually wasn't stung, and I apologize if it sounds like it was. I also don't mind this kind of remembrance - a sort of understated and quiet "it happened, here's a thing if you wanna read". It leaves space for people to decide what to feel about the anniversary; it's the other kinds of memorials, the gabillion Facebook posts and the politicians' speeches and such that I dread, because they seem to imply that there is One Official Set Way that I'm supposed to feel today, and I just plain don't want that to be decided for me.

Because I saw and heard and smelled and felt things that day which aren't covered in those memorials - the politicians' speeches won't mention how I frantically tore through every scrap of paper in my house looking for my then-boyfriend's new cell number which he'd only just gotten, and I was panicked for an hour not knowing whether he was okay; they won't mention the gloriously tasteless joke my dad made when I called to let them know I was okay, which comforted me because if my Daddy is making bad jokes then the world is still a little bit normal; or the way I hesitated when my friend in Ireland asked "do you think it was a hijacking", because I knew that as soon as I said "yes" then that would be admitting that the world was forever and ever going to be different; they won't mention the weird giggly moment that boyfriend and I later had with another couple in a drug store as we were picking out candles to bring to a vigil and we were trying to decide what scent of candle would be most appropriate; they won't mention the screaming match I had with a guy in front of a mosque because he'd quipped to me "hey, is this the snake pit here?" and I WENT OFF on him with such anger that I can still feel my blood boiling a dozen years later; they won't mention how I had a meltdown after two days and the only thing I could do to cope was to hole up for a solid three days and do nothing but read the entire LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, for the first time, from beginning to end; they won't mention how the thread that I finally started following back to sanity was my cat, who still, even though the world was falling down around my ears, was still his same old god-damn blessedly-familiar self and was still trying to annoy the everloving shit out of me two hours before his dinner every day, and it reminded me that I was alive and others were alive and we still needed to eat and sleep and walk and think and breathe and, well, live, because even though others were dead I wasn't and it was on me to stay that way.

That's the stuff I remember, and that's how I remember this day, and only on my own will I get that. I don't mind talking about it, or remembering it, any more. It's only the being forced to think things I don't, or being forced to hear others speak for me, that I mind; this didn't do that. So I'm good.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:57 AM on September 11, 2013 [28 favorites]


In a lot of ways, 9/11 was much easier for me to deal with as someone who was at his desk at the World Financial Center across the street and saw the second plane hit and the flames and people jumping and all that. Time slowed down, and what I saw out my window before fleeing to the Battery and eventually getting caught in the cloud was real -- much more so than if I'd been watching on TV. There was no time to think about the implications or what was to come -- I was mainly concerned with getting out of the cloud and letting my loved ones know I was alive and making sure they were, too. Twleve years later, the attacks on the WTC remain this thing that happened right in front of me, and that colors my view in a way that people who weren't there cannot know. Doesn't make their perspective any less valid...
posted by AJaffe at 10:02 AM on September 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


Well, I'm home sick today or I might have passed by this thread. I took it in the spirit that the OP made it, that that was an amazing metafilter thread, and one of the reasons I stick around this place. I did not actually read it that day, partly because I was actually experiencing a bit of the events of that day in DC.

I remember the thread about the earthquake in Japan, which I also felt had better info. than the media that day for a long time (contentious stuff and all), particularly for those of us on a different continent. I would read things out to my husband from that thread, and he was amazed at what mefites knew.

My attitude is fairly close to what Debaser626 said. This particularly: We will forget. Not likely for those directly impacted by these events, but we will forget, because that is what we do. But we will continue to be affected, and it is important to remember why we were affected and what happened. Not to memorialize, but to recognize.

I won't forget of course, and I feel an obligation to remember, and to pass it on a bit, but only to people who were not there, or who want to hear. I understand the feelings of people like anotherpanacea who are done with it, I do, but, respectfully, it will be a while before this fades for others, and people cope with tragedies in different ways. You can ignore these types of threads if that is what you need to do.

By accident of my family marrying late and having kids late, my great grandfather actually fought in the Civil War. He told my father stories about his experiences, and my father told me. Those things have a different flavor for me than reading a history of the Civil War. Contemporary diaries, letters, and stories are important for making history more personal and real for those who did not experience events. I honor those who went through something like the Civil War by hearing and trying to feel a bit of the stories they told.

My father was in college when Pearl Harbor happened. He told me how it was when he heard the news, and also how they all felt as young men knowing they would soon be going to war. That story personalizes for me an event and a world war that has faded for most people. I use it to remember that all historical events are made up of individuals and their individual stories, feelings and experiences. History is not dry and dead if you consider and try to empathize with the experiences of individuals. When deciding whether to involve young people in a war, governments would do well to remember that they are individuals, before treating them as a means to an end.

So, I take 9-11 memorializing in that spirit. Some feel the need to remember, to memorialize, to personalize, to individualize those who died that day. It is good to remember that each person who died was an individual with their own story, that ended that day, but that remains in those they left behind. It is good to remember that history is the story of individuals, not just countries, and wars.

New York and the towers dominates the memories of 9-11, due to the great loss of life and the way the towers came down.

My experience of the day was in D.C., on the sidelines in a way. It is good to understand though that I work for the government, and in the capital city of the U.S.. I was at work that day, and as the news began to filter in about what was going on, particularly when the plane hit the Pentagon, we knew that the country was being attacked. (All thanks to the brave people of Flight 93 for sparing the White House or the Capital building.)

I think it is important to remember that that was the first experience of being attacked for the U.S. government in a long, long time. They were pretty traumatized by it, a lot of them still are. They overreacted then (Iraq), they are still in the throes of overreacting (i.e. more erosion of freedom in the name of security). I feel in a way like the country is a car that was in an accident, starting to skid, is still skidding, and has not yet figured out how to right itself and not crash and burn.

I work in Maryland suburb of D.C., so on 9-11 we were relying on the word of our friends at the main building on the Mall in D.C. to keep us informed. Cell networks were jammed, and internet was going in and out, and we did not have too many radios or TVs in the building (we do now, thanks to that day). When they sent us home for the day, we knew the roads were too jammed to get anywhere, so we all sat around in cars in the parking lot listening to the radio, till we thought we could leave. I had to fax my husband the email saying we could leave, since the internet was down in his office (we work for the same big org.)

When we finally all carpooled home, my friend drove me to Virginia, across the bridge not too far from the Pentagon, so we saw the black smoke of it drifting in the air. I remember thinking that this was bad, that there would be people using this as an excuse to go to war, and also I remember thinking that I really admired the people of London that day, because I was upset by one building burning on one day, and WWII London had to deal with the Blitz ... I can't even imagine....

My friend could not take me all the way home, as traffic was too bad, so I had her drop me off on a main road, and began the long walk home. It was a beautiful day. That is one of my main memories of that day - how beautiful the weather was and how surreal it felt on that beautiful day to think of people dead in the World Trade Center, and the Pentagon, (and in a field in Pennsylvania - though I did not know that till later). There were many others walking home besides me, and we all slogged along in our work clothes, and our inappropriate shoes for walking (the promoter of high heels for office wear for women ... grrr), carrying brief cases and jackets, pulling off ties as it got hotter. Each person walking quietly, lost in their own thoughts, on that beautiful beautiful day, wondering what was going to happen next. ...
posted by gudrun at 10:05 AM on September 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


There were over fourteen 9/11s in 2001 on our nation's roads. If only there were a global war on automobiles.

Many of those deaths could have been prevented were the drivers wearing helmets.
posted by Obscure Reference at 10:22 AM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is probably the very first year this day has come around and it has felt just like an ordinary day for me.

Me too. I'm not complaining about the existence of this thread, at all -- but it's 1pm and this is the first time I was reminded that today is 9/11 (also I apparently didn't check metatalk all morning long so today is an unusually productive day for me hooray!)

No big retrospectives or memorials plastered all over every news site, not a single photograph of a bald eagle on my Facebook feed, no-one has yet exhorted me to Nevar Forget... it's a huge relief, and gives me hope that eventually, finally, maybe we will forget, or at least put it behind us at last. And we'll be able to roll back a dozen years' worth of eroded-freedom-in-the-name-of-security, bring back that whole rule-of-law thing (that was nice, wasn't it?) and life can go back to normal. I hope. Someday.

Oh who am I kidding, that's never going to happen. But a guy can dream
posted by ook at 10:23 AM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


You know there is that old saying "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" by Santayana... I'm not sure that really is a truism. Not that we should become historically illiterate, but rather over remembering, over emotionally investing in a tragic event give it a disproportionate weight. (and frankly we, societal wise, tend to make the same, or similar, mistakes if we remember the last ones or not) For many many people what happened twelve years ago was pretty fucking horrible. For a lot of humans the aftermath was equally, if not even more so horrible.

Never forget... well perhaps, but that doesn't mean never move on and try and make things better. Every one wants to be special, every one wants to live in a special place, and in fact we all are, and we all do, but we are no more special then everyone else and our place (or at leat for many of us) the United States, is special, but no more than any other place. we are not marked out for greatness above others. The Battle of Gettysburg saw about 7,000 Americans killed, in 1991 140,000 people died in a Bangladesh cyclone, three years ago about 160,000 people died in Haiti earthquake... which in no way minimized those killed twelve years ago, they are special to those who loved them. But culturally I think we need to be careful about mythologizing what happened. It was a tragedy, tragedies happen with astonishing regularity.

We certainly didn't really learn much from 9/11 the US and other States act pretty much exactly the same after it as they did before it.

As-salam alaykum
posted by edgeways at 10:45 AM on September 11, 2013


I was a lurker then, back in the olden days.

I thought I'd re-read today as a little private memorial moment, but I couldn't get past 9:37 a.m. Still too painful, all these years later.
posted by thinkpiece at 10:48 AM on September 11, 2013


The oddest thing about that post looking back from now is that it was well before MeFi had favorites. 9/11 is of course arguably the defining moment historically of this century so far, and when a relative newbie looks at it, he or she might wonder why no one bothered to favorite the post that day or for four and a half years afterward.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:21 AM on September 11, 2013


I wasn't a mefite then but wish I had been.

I flew home to Los Angeles from a conference in Boston the night before. I was offered a seat bump to the next morning + hotel, but I just wanted to get home. I had a ton of colleagues that were all leaving back to their respective cities on 9/10 and 9/11.

When I woke up and turned on the TV, my first thought was for all of those colleagues. I'm not sure how, but not one ended up on one of the flights into the towers or the Pentagon or Shanksville but my morning and afternoon and until we could account for every one of them was of cold-sweat anxiety and fear.

.
posted by Sophie1 at 11:22 AM on September 11, 2013


I have never gone back to re-read that thread, and I don't think I can. I was reading here but didn't have an account yet; I was toggling between this site and the NYTimes site on my work computer, and then when we got the TVs turned on, walking in to watch those, then calling my husband because who knew, something might happen in Dallas too.

Since I didn't lose anyone or any place directly as a result of the attacks, the sadness I feel now is about what happened after to my country, how I lost what little naivete I had about the people who run things, and their intentions.

Looking back, it now all seems like one long blur, the first Bush election and the Florida stolen votes, the Supreme Court going along, then 9/11, then a war we all knew was wrong and pointless and evil, along long nightmare that we are still struggling to wake from.
posted by emjaybee at 11:25 AM on September 11, 2013


I've often wondered if 9/11 would have happened if the Supreme Court had given Gore the presidency.

Meanwhile, it's also the 40th anniversary of a nasty coup in Chile.
posted by mareli at 11:28 AM on September 11, 2013


Including one of the most prescient comments ever made on MetaFilter.

A thread that I still think about from time to time, esp. post-Snowden:

Terrorism's first win? Bye-Bye crypto [9/13/01]

For my money, skallas' comment has proven to be the most prescient:

This morning's events are roughly equivalent to the Reichstag fire that provided the social opportunity for the Nazi take-over of Germany.

I am *not* suggesting that, like the Nazis, the authoritarian forces in America actually had a direct role in perpetrating this mind-blistering tragedy. (Though their indirect role deserves a much longer discussion.)

Nevertheless, nothing could serve those who believe that American "safety" is more important than American liberty better than something like this. Control freaks will dine on this day for the rest of our lives.

posted by ryanshepard at 11:45 AM on September 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


The media is what finally spurred me to deal with the internal conflict that had taken up residence in me from the first moment. Jon Stewart actually kicked it off.

Each year when something like this is posted, I always regret not mentioning being glued to MeFi at every spare moment through the next three days, because I couldn't bear to watch the TV anymore. The people here really made the import and humanity of these events come home to me, to make sure I pinned my spot appropriately and didn't take on too much of the impact as my own, because who was I, compared to the people right there, in their own neighbourhoods? Just another world citizen, just another American. All I could really do is send my heart out.

I wouldn't be an actual member for a few more years, but habit of a couple of years of coming to MeFi for entertainment and knowledge was so ingrained that I came here before all the other "weblogs" I read at the time. And after getting sucked into that thread, I didn't really need to go anywhere else, other than the local forums where we were pulling together for those who were more directly affected.

Every year, even though I know it is hard to have this wound abraded for those who lived through it in their own places, in their own skins, I am actually grateful that we're asked to remember the way MeFi participated, because it was a watershed moment for being able to come together online and try to make sense of something previously unimaginable. And it gives us examples of how to be aware of what not to do, how we can be better stewards of these moments in the future.

Love and peace to those who lived through it, whether NYC or VA, and to those who lost their lives.
posted by batmonkey at 12:04 PM on September 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Slate have an article today on Danny Lewin, the first victim of 9/11 and the author of algorithms used by Akamai. There are also a few mentions of Danny in this FPP from 2007.
posted by Wordshore at 12:20 PM on September 11, 2013


I also mainly remember what a beautiful day it was.

I was preparing to teach, first day of class in a course on the ethics of humanitarian military intervention, and the opening conversation was going to be about (among other things) how Americans did not have a visceral understanding of how it felt to have military or terrorist attacks happen to people we knew, on our own soil.

Sometime before 10 a friend had called and left a message -- there's something going on in New York, and can I come over to watch the news on your tv? (We had the only tv among our circle.) I hadn't looked at the news, but figured what could be so important... instead I took a shower. By the time I got out, there were more messages asking the same thing, other friends needing to come watch the news on our tv. So I turned on the tv and watched the second tower fall. By that time there were reports of bombs at the State Dept and at other locations in DC, and I started trying to reach family and friends in DC and NYC and couldn't get through.

The class was set for the afternoon. I thought, there's no way I can get through this class without losing it. The other person I was teaching with decided to hold his section, which I think was a more courageous choice, but I felt I had nothing of value to offer the students as a framework for this, so I cancelled mine.

I didn't have a way to reach the students by email -- so after watching the tv in the morning I walked up to campus to leave a note on the board saying class was cancelled and they could email me if they needed to talk. So I remember that walk -- it was just a glorious, sunny, crisp fall day, where normally you'd be walking to campus and thinking what a lovely thing it was, to be out and about on a day like this. Instead I was thinking, what am I going to come back to, when I get home? That uncertainty of, if this impossible thing can happen, all bets are off, and I don't know how to predict what might come next.

A few years ago, I was teaching and one of the students brought up that pop country song about not forgetting what it was like. I said to them, do you guys feel like that's a risk, that anybody's going to forget what it was like that day? Because to me there is no risk of forgetting. And the students said, well, I was ten years old, and I mainly remember that my mom was really upset.

It is very strange to realize how particular our experiences are, even of very widely-shared moments like this, and how quickly generational change happens. Those kids and younger kids can't have the experience of the deep uncertainty of "what comes next"; the Mefi thread is a fascinating document in that light, especially since it's so much more similar to present-day social media modes of experiencing mass events than other media from 2001 are.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:23 PM on September 11, 2013 [14 favorites]


It is very strange to realize how particular our experiences are, even of very widely-shared moments like this, and how quickly generational change happens. Those kids and younger kids can't have the experience of the deep uncertainty of "what comes next"; the Mefi thread is a fascinating document in that light, especially since it's so much more similar to present-day social media modes of experiencing mass events than other media from 2001 are.

I mentioned something like this to my mother last year; my niece and nephew are very young now, but I'm pretty sure that I may be asked about 9/11 in about five years or so, even if it's for a school project, because they'll learn at some point from family lore that "Aunt EC was there". And honestly, I'm looking forward to that - especially if it is a school project, because if it is, 9/11 will just be a thing with equal standing amongst the uncle who was in New Orleans during Katrina, or the neighbor who was in the army in Iraq, or (more likely for them as they're in Massachusetts) the parents who were in Boston, or any one of a number of other things that have gone on. And that feels right. 9/11 looms large enough in my own mind, but I'd love for it to fade into the background for the rest of the country, because then it finally may start to do so for me.

Also, any chance to tell the story my way - when I'm ready - is welcome.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:36 PM on September 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Many of those deaths could have been prevented were the drivers wearing helmets.

Speaking of helmets, this motorcycle rally in DC today is pretty awful. I got to experience some of it both as a pedestrian and in an car, it's like a Critical Mass on motorcycles. "I'm here to celebrate freedom or something, so get out of my way." I hope this doesn't become a tradition.
posted by peeedro at 12:52 PM on September 11, 2013


Speaking of helmets, this motorcycle rally in DC today is pretty awful.

I really love that South Park episode about motorcyclists.
posted by entropicamericana at 12:55 PM on September 11, 2013


In an office today someone remarked on it. I'm in Berlin now, and they weren't there that day and for a moment, as they told the story of where they were I realized I will never be able to convey what it was to be on Manhattan that day and the weeks and months after.

But this morning I thought of Brian Lehrer's voice that morning, mentioning that an airplane, 'we think a small plane, though it's hard to tell' has crashed into the World Trade Center.

It was like the last, innocent thought of the decade.
posted by From Bklyn at 12:59 PM on September 11, 2013


Was it Lehrer? Wasn't it too early for him to be on?
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 1:30 PM on September 11, 2013


collaborative citizen journalism

Hmmm. Going back through the thread I'm struck, actually, by how little there is of this. Mostly people are relaying what they're seeing on TV or hearing on the radio or, occasionally, finding on online news sites. That's just "citizen relaying of old-fashioned journalism." It's interesting to think how different our experience would be of something like this now; how much phone video footage, on-the-spot tweets, instagram images etc. etc. etc. we'd be flooded with in almost realtime.
posted by yoink at 1:47 PM on September 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


On 9/11 I woke up feeling crappy and went to check MeFi.

"Ooh, triple post," I thought. "Matt's going to be pissed."

Went back to bed.

Eventually, woke up for real and figured out what was going on. Still, every year, I think "triple post".
posted by Flannery Culp at 1:56 PM on September 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I wasn't a MeFite then, although I really wanted to be, and I did read the thread that day. I had a new DSL that stayed up throughout even though both regular and cell service phone service were extremely spotty. I was in Brooklyn, naked eye distance, but no imminent danger

My then roommate (and still dear friend) and I had a conversation about it last night, and he and I tried align our recollections of it all. But our true memories, not the versions that have the clunky or narratively unconfortable parts worn off by years of remembering, telling, and forgetting. It was harder than you would think, both in the sense of a puzzle and in the sense of a trial. I don't know. We remember it differently in terms of what we saw when, but we agree on how it all felt. I took about ten minutes of video that day and have not watched it since maybe 2003.

But yeah, I've got no problem personally with things that are reminders popping up. I fugging HATE getting surprised by footage or photos and I hate jingoistic Facebook horseshit but, yeah, it's September 11th and I'll be thinking about it one way or the other. It's been a long time since I thought about it every day, and that's enough for me.
posted by dirtdirt at 1:57 PM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 2:05 PM on September 11, 2013


I'm sure a lot of us were thinking the same thought as soon as that second plane hit. I know I was.

My first though wasn't "erosion of civil liberties". I was thinking more "the US is going to bomb the shit out of someone very, very soon and a lot more people are going to die." Although I don't live in the States so the civil liberties element wouldn't have been quite as important to me personally.
posted by Hoopo at 2:06 PM on September 11, 2013


I lived in DC on September 11th, just a few blocks from the White House. This was me. I watched the Pentagon burn from a friend's rooftop that day.

I remember 9/11 as the start of a chain of events in DC made of real threats (anthrax, sniper), fake threats (dirty bombs, "suspicious" people) and a sudden oppressive amount of institutional control. I remember refusing to take the subway to any destination within a 3 mile radius because I would rather walk than be pulled off of the train, stripped, and thrown into a chemical shower because a homeless guy sprayed Windex in a subway car. (Seriously. This happened.) Buildings I could enter freely as a member of the public were restricted, monuments closed, police presence increased, searches randomly happened on the subway and people generally lost their shit more easily. My muslim friends all stopped wearing their hijabs.

I hated going home to Georgia and seeing "Let's Roll" bumper stickers and flags draped everywhere. It seemed like the more gung-ho someone in my hometown was about 9/11, the more in favor they were of me and my fellow DC residents losing our civil liberties in the name of "freedom" and "fighting terrorism". I would get so angry at people acting like it all happened to them personally when they were thousands of miles away. It really hadn't happened directly to me, either, but I lived with the consequences of the aftermath for as long as I lived in DC. I could not believe the gall of so many people approving from afar random searches that violated the 4th amendment and didn't do much to stop anything, all while reminding me to "Never Forget".

So when I log onto Facebook and see hearts draped in the American flag with a silhouette of the World Trade Center on it I get a little stabby.
posted by Alison at 2:11 PM on September 11, 2013 [12 favorites]


Just a stupid thing that happened, committed by ignorant assholes who gave other ignorant assholes a reason to do more stupid things and untold thousands died for no reason.

It was really nice to go through half the day without being reminded. I'd rather forget.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 2:46 PM on September 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


It was really nice to go through half the day without being reminded. I'd rather forget.

That will never be an option for some. It will be only a question of how to remember.
posted by Doktor Zed at 3:01 PM on September 11, 2013


I remember being woken up early that morning -- a suitemate knocked on the door, saying her mom had called to say something was happening in the U.S., and she should tell her American roommate. I had just moved to Canada a few days before for grad school. That morning I rolled over and went back to sleep. When I woke up again, I looked online to see what was going on. I don't remember what sites I found, because the news was everywhere, with video clips playing constantly. I went to class and felt numb while my teacher talked about how to treat events like that day, as a lesson. I spent some time at the International Students Center who had other confused students wanting to know what was happening.

Over the radio, there were public service announcements asking for anyone with any space available in their home to call in and take people who were suddenly stranded in Vancouver. (Planes in the air from all over the U.S. were rerouted to Canadian airports.) One of my friends drove to the airport to pick up someone who was in Vancouver without expecting to be and host her until she could get a plane again to wherever she was going. I heard that the U.S. border was closed. It was weird to think I couldn't go home if I wanted to.
posted by Margalo Epps at 3:34 PM on September 11, 2013


Cool reconstruction GIF
posted by Ad hominem at 3:59 PM on September 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


9/11/2001 is my MetaFilter Cake Day!
I had the tv rolling but also the Webtv rolling (laugh, please) and hitting refresh as this famous thread unfolded. I was glued.
posted by TangerineGurl at 4:13 PM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


As a fairly direct result of 9/11, I spent four and a half years living and working in Kabul, Afghanistan and in northern Pakistan from 2006 to the end of 2010. I am really disappointed in how the US, ISAF and other NATO countries fucked up the mission in Afghanistan. Most people don't know that the entire US ground forces presence in Afghanistan was less than 30,000 troops from early 2002 all the way to mid 2007, when numbers started increasing. The time to get security, stability and a non corrupt government in place in rural Afghanistan was 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005. We are much too late now and reaping the results of Bush's "low budget" approach to nation building in .AF.
posted by thewalrus at 4:23 PM on September 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was not a member then, but I was in the city. Today was my first 9/11 as a resident of SOMEWHERE ELSE. I found small, harmless ways to talk about it with my coworkers, most of whom were 10 years old that day, or Serbian.

It was strange. I got home from work and we discovered that my SO accidentally left the truck half on, so it needs a jump. Kinda borked our evening plan, but I think on today of all days, it is not the end of the world, and that may be my new 9/11 summary.
posted by vrakatar at 4:27 PM on September 11, 2013


I feel like there's more coverage of the 9/11 anniversary this year than there was last year, or even any year that wasn't one of the big anniversaries (2006, 2011) or the first anniversary (2002). I honestly can't tell if it's just the normal amount of coverage and I'm just noticing it more than usual this year, or if coverage increases whenever an American president is gearing the nation up to blow up another group of brown people who aren't related to 9/11 in any way.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 4:29 PM on September 11, 2013


Unwise to tell this story I suppose, but then, I usually haven't let that stop me, here.

On 9/11 I woke from a dream in which I was in a car with my father-- then 27 years dead-- and my most recent exe's husband, a close friend. No one was driving, we were high in the air and seemed to be flying, but when the sun came out for a moment I could see we were actually on one of a huge network of almost completely transparent shining glassy roadways that covered most of the sky. We were over a large city, and when I looked out my window to the right, I saw smoke rising from two skyscrapers. Suddenly I had a phone in my hand and was frantically dialing, but couldn't get through, then the pyramidal tops popped off the two buildings and sparks rushed out as from 4th of July fountains while the tops dangled down the sides on strings. I saw that nearby buildings were on fire too, and realized there was no point to a call.

Told my partner the dream over coffee, and she happened to notice the message light flashing on my phone. I listened to it immediately because my exe's husband had been airlifted to a hospital the previous week after going into anaphylactic shock from a wasp sting, and the dream had left me in a state of dread about him, but it was my partner's best friend and business partner saying "we have been terrorized" in a strange monotone and hanging up.

I'd had what I'd thought were prophetic dreams before, but they'd never been allegorical, and always featured visual images with a much higher degree of congruence to an actual event than that one had, and I didn't know what to make of it.

And still don't, though I must admit I've heard many similar stories about 9/11 over the years-- they are almost a genre unto themselves-- and didn't really believe any of them.
posted by jamjam at 4:34 PM on September 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


So I dropped off 9 shirts at the dry cleaner last Friday evening. As usual, the lady behind the counter asked me when I wanted to pick them up. As usual, I said "I dunno, how 'bout Wednesday?" She said, "okay", looked at the calendar and said, " - - -*gasp* - - - 9/11, then." I'm fucking sick of people thinking they can't say that fucking date without an obligatory *gasp*.
posted by klarck at 4:35 PM on September 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


I was in 9th grade. My latin teacher told us, "We are at war. You are going to be fighting this war." We were fourteen. How could we have believed her?
posted by The White Hat at 4:37 PM on September 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


jamjam, I had a vision the night before. The sense of it was a vastly depopulated NYC. Strings were vibrating.
posted by vrakatar at 4:50 PM on September 11, 2013


I just re-read the whole thread. It was hard. I don't have the kind of painful 9/11 memories like people who were in NY, DC, or PA or had loved ones who were... but I'm still a human being and an American so... yeah.

I've gotten so conditioned to having to relive this every year though, that all of the frantic sharing of news, the good and bad information, the sadness, the worry, even the anger... I was bracing myself for all of that... so much so, that weirdly, my takeaway this go-round seems to be oh gawd, the asshole with the "All Your Base Are Belong to Us" gag... preserved forever.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 4:50 PM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wasn't in the US. It was one of the most surreal days of my life, and set off a series of surreal years. I don't think I've ever told this story completely. But in summaryishness:

I had been in Iceland for just under 2 years. I was asleep in bed after working the night shift at a group home for the disabled the night before. My phone rang, and it was a friend of mine in Canada. The first thing she said was, "America is being invaded!"

So this was a person that I knew had a flair for the dramatic. When she said this to me, in my seconds-of-wakefulness state, though, the first thing that sprang to mind was Cuba marching on Florida. Don't ask me why.

I didn't have a TV or a radio, so instead I just went to the nearest TV, which was at this sad little restaurant by the harbor. I walked in, looked up at the TV hanging in the corner over the coffee table, and saw it.

I had absolutely no context for this, had no idea what I was even looking at. All I knew was I had to call my dad. Not surprisingly, no lines were getting through, so then it was the embassy. A really helpful guy talked me down, assured me that if my dad wasn't in the Towers or at the Pentagon ("The Pentagon?" "Yes, the Pentagon, too.") then he was probably OK and just to sit tight. "You're probably in the safest place you could be right now."

Well needless to say, being here and not there made me really uneasy. And then things got worse. This transformation was taking place in my home country that was at times very unfamiliar, then shocking, then appalling. And then it went to Afghanistan. But it wasn't until it made its way into my own family that it really began to shake my life.

Almost overnight, my dad went from being the waaay to the left of Democrat Democrat that I knew him to be to a guy talking about Saddam's human shields and WMDs. It was like talking to a complete stranger. We had bitter arguments. Soon, we stopped talking to each other. We wouldn't speak to each other again for a year.

In my daily life, I found myself having to constantly answer for American foreign and domestic policy. And not in the usual "lol McDonald's Tom Cruise" way. These were confused, angry, scared people. This still happens to me, although not nearly as often.

By the time Fallujah happened, I had come to accept, to my horror and shame, that the US was set on a course for self-destruction. A war of attrition, abroad and at home, that would limp along until it finally imploded and the country collapsed.

Between then and now, I've become a lot more hopeful. I think the mass popular occupations and uprisings that I've seen give me a lot of hope. The current model is not working, and it will collapse. Whether or not we can build a new world in the shell of the old is what matters, and I believe - maybe have to believe - that that's what I'm seeing it happening.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:54 PM on September 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


There are now 12 year old kids who will only know about that day through the stories we choose to tell.

Nickelodeon's Nick News: "What Happened? The Story of September 11, 2001" from 2011. I haven't watched the whole thing yet, but it's actually been pretty interesting. I'm in my mid 20s and there's a lot of detail I misremember or forget about.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 6:44 PM on September 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Just let it go.

How can we with the Marriot giving away complimentary coffee and mini-muffins?
posted by philip-random at 6:49 PM on September 11, 2013 [11 favorites]


For people who were younger than, say, 14 in 2001 -- I'm curious what your memories of that day are like. What did you know at the time? Which of your memories don't match up with the reality as you have later learned about it?
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 6:59 PM on September 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


philip-random: "Just let it go.

How can we with the Marriot giving away complimentary coffee and mini-muffins?
"

Wow. That's really pathetic.
posted by double block and bleed at 6:59 PM on September 11, 2013


what i remember is how completely unprepared people were to evaluate or react to the event and how the days and weeks and years after were dedicated to a kind of collective myth making to paper over how flat footed and unequal to the moment we all were. i was kind of a shitty teenager at the time tho.
posted by Ictus at 7:01 PM on September 11, 2013


How can we with the Marriot giving away complimentary coffee and mini-muffins?"

Jesus fucking Christ. Americans are the tackiest, most superficial people to ever walk the earth. And when I say walk, I mean ride our motorized scooters to the dollar store, complaining about the price of gas and feeling smug about all of our collective bravery on 9/11. Christ.

God bless America.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:30 PM on September 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


For people who were younger than, say, 14 in 2001...

I was 12 and I was in 6th grade. Because I went to Catholic elementary school, we were having Mass that morning. The priest asked us to pray for the people in New York because something terrible had happened. After recess, the teachers gathered us together and told us there would be no afternoon clubs or sports because - and then I got a nosebleed and didn't find out why we weren't having any extracurricular activites that day. They just made up a reason though. Something about it being the anniversary of a treaty or something. I'm not sure.

Finally, we got to Social Studies and our teacher told us that they weren't supposed to say anything but that two planes had hit the World Trade Centers. Some kids speculated that it was deliberate. The principal's daughter exclaimed that it would be the talk of the week (which was the understatement of the decade). I remember seeing my best friend and saying that they had knocked down my favorite buildings (I think I had seen the Twin Towers on a coin at some point and become enamored with them). My friend said that he wished he had seen it because it must have looked cool. Looking back on all of that makes me feel kind of ashamed about the ways we reacted and the things we said in response, but we were kids and I guess we just didn't get it. It didn't feel very real yet, but things were happening and it was exciting.

Then I got home and my mom, dad, my sister, and I sat in our dark living room and watched the news. I finally realized how truly awful it was. And it was when I saw people jumping out of the towers that I first came to hate whoever had done that to us, even though I didn't even know who to hate.

I also remember having group discussions about the merits of invading Afghanistan and how, according to one of my classmates, we would only lose 100 Soldiers, tops. If you had told me that 12 years later, I'd be in the Army and that Army would still be fighting the same war, I'd have thought you were high.

So long story short, we were all really confused, but kind of excited and then really sad, but patriotic. Or at least that was my experience.
posted by A Bad Catholic at 7:37 PM on September 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'm going to be charitable and assume that Mariott was making a gesture because of their hotel at 3 World Trade Center, which was destroyed in the collapse and 40 people, including some employees, died.

But just a sign saying the coffee and muffins were free, and not why, would have sufficed.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:27 PM on September 11, 2013


I was 12 at the time too. One of the biggest things for me is that at a gut level I still can't distinguish between the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. In my head they both have the "rah rah America, Get those terrorists" associations. It's a little embarrassing to have lived through something like this and not even be able to remember the reasons for what happened.

If I stop and think about it, and without looking it up, I'm pretty sure Afghanistan was about Al Qaeda and Iraq was mainly about Saddam Hussein's ostensible WMDs, but then we had a good excuse because he was a friend of Al Qaeda or something? Or maybe it was just the WMDs* and it was bad timing all around?

I assume that these two things are more separate events for people who were adults at the time. Or was it sold to the US as a 2-for-1 sort of thing? I'll have to read up on all this again and maybe it'll stick this time around.


*This is also why Syria is really confusing for me, because I'm all but certain both parties have swapped stances on US-acting-as-the-global-police. 12 year old memories about political events are really hard to keep straight.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 8:37 PM on September 11, 2013


Lord, if I die in a terrorist attack please don't let me be memorialized in a vinyl cut window sticker or muffin buffet, amen.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:43 PM on September 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


But just a sign saying the coffee and muffins were free, and not why, would have sufficed.

As much as I love the complexity of America and the positive nature of most Americans, the strange lack of awareness over tackiness in examples like this jars.

On the plus side, at least (a) they didn't refer to them as "Freedom Muffins" and (b) the tackiness only lasted 30 minutes.
posted by Wordshore at 8:56 PM on September 11, 2013


*This is also why Syria is really confusing for me, because I'm all but certain both parties have swapped stances on US-acting-as-the-global-police. 12 year old memories about political events are really hard to keep straight.

How 'bout this, kid? War is bad, always, but particularly since 1950 and particularly when it's waged by a country with overwhelming wealth and fire power in a country densely populated by innocent civilians who have ancient alliances, cultural traditions, and religious affiliations that those who would start wars don't understand and are incurious about. Yes, you are correct, the two football teams in Washington have swapped sides, with the key difference being with Syr
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:15 PM on September 11, 2013


(Accidentally hit post)

Yes, you are correct, the two football teams in Washington have swapped sides, with the key difference being with Syria we are at least responding to an actual crime against humanity event, and also, I believe, the Obama administration unlike that of Bush, has some modicum of understanding the implications of using force unilaterally. I hope I'm not wrong.

War is the failure of human beings to hold and act upon a higher collective morality. Maybe this is a luxury afforded only the educated, secure, and well fed. But if we are working toward a truly just world, we are all secure and war no longer exists. I can think of all kinds of scenarios where a dictator using chemical weapons is dealt with peacefully and effectively, but they all involve some amount of ignoring one's base emotions, self sacrifice, and turning the other cheek. Ain't gonna happen, but still worth pointing out the failure of diplomatic organizations and standing against unilateral military violence in every single instance. It only begets more of the same.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:26 PM on September 11, 2013


I was 23 and attending my first national conference as a full time employee of Canada Customs. It was for all the directors of Compliance Verification and they were tough, scary bastards. Or so they seemed that way to me at the time. I remember some people were late, and as each person arrived, the news from the TVs in the lobby was worse and worse.

At one point the senior executive in the room got called out. When he came back (briefly) later, he told us all what had happened. I very distinctly remember him saying "The border [between US and Canada] is closed." Words I thought were impossible.

We were convinced they'd cancel the rest of that 3 day conference. They did not.
posted by aclevername at 9:34 PM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


On the 11th of September 2012, I watched tv, ate food, and went outside to do normal stuff.
posted by hal_c_on at 10:16 PM on September 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


quoting from the journal, exactly one year after the fact:

What's to remember? I blew off work early and went to Tyson's where we didn't make music as we'd hoped, just smoked dope, drank beer and watched way too much TV etc. To quote Maggie, "We immersed ourselves in the grotesque spectacle just like everybody else." Crashing airplanes, collapsing buildings, flabbergasted and horrified consumers the world over. Apocalypse so NOW it even took over the Golf Channel for about 24 hours.
posted by philip-random at 10:20 PM on September 11, 2013


For people who were younger than, say, 14 in 2001 -- I'm curious what your memories of that day are like. What did you know at the time? Which of your memories don't match up with the reality as you have later learned about it?

Last year marked the moment at which 9/11 became a halfway point in my life. This is the first year in which I've lived longer with 9/11 than I've lived without it.

I was a very frightened boy when I was younger. The sort that worried about the Power Ranger putties murdering my parents while I was off in pre-school, and wondered seriously about whether I'd prefer to be murdered alongside them or try to live my life without family. I was given Animorphs to read (note: Animorphs is an extraordinarily traumatizing "children's" book series) to basically inoculate me against being terrified of everything in existence. Needless to say, 9/11 was something of a frightening day.

I remember hearing the news over the loudspeaker. Our boring, out-of-touch principal – even at the age of 11 it was obvious that he had no understanding of what being a sixth-grader was really like – cleared his throat and spoke in his boring, halting way. "He's going to talk about lunch trays," I thought, or something like it, as he asked for our attention. "He's going to talk about how disappointed he is that we're not cleaning our lunch trays before stacking them away." I'm sure I got all giddy with the thought that I might make that comment to another kid and boost my reputation as an insightful witty mind. But then we got 9/11 instead.

I had computer class the period after. Maybe we all Googled 9/11, but I'm pretty sure I worked on my web site instead (an FAQ page for people who wanted to know things about F Zero vehicles on the Gameboy Advance, with animated dragon gifs abound). I remember staring at the walls of every room I sat in that day, wondering whether an airplane would come crashing through it. (It would look exactly like the gag in Airplane! except that after we saw it crash in slow-motion we would all be killed.)

Over the day there came a stream of announcements over the speaker, each one naming a student and telling them to report to the office, their parents were there. I wasn't one of the hundred or so chosen. I took a somewhat empty bus home.

I went home that day and watched the feeds of fire and smoke billowing out from the buildings. It looked mundanely beautiful – beautiful in that well-produced movie feel, mundane because the details were so ordinary that nobody would think to make it up. I didn't see bodies or screaming people, just the peaceful smoke billowing out the side of the buildings. I don't think my reaction was shock or even horror: it was more of a shrug if anything. More of an "oh, that happened, that can happen." I went to the top of the Twin Towers once when I was younger, on the exact day that the Columbine shootings happened; my grandfather and I drove home from New York and we listened to these surreal stories of shootings on the radio. 9/11 was far more acceptable and less frightening by comparison.

It was boring, really. I think I was trying to make jokes about it within an afternoon of its occurring. It was a silly thing done by silly people. I don't know if it was because I was young or because I was desensitized or because I had some sense of the absurd but it wasn't a thing I could take seriously. It wasn't alien invasions or juvenile psychosis, it was understandable and it was stupid. Somebody doesn't like America so they fly a plane into a building. If not for the way it provoked the country into reacting, you'd think a child could have devised the plan. It was ridiculous, sublimely so. (I didn't think in those words as a kid.)

I was scared that maybe my dad had been in the city when it happened, or that my mom had been on the plane. So that was frightening the first day. Then I went home and they were alive and the whole event was a Thing that happened but wasn't super impactful. Except for the way that the whole world changed, but that happens a lot when you're a child. You learn new rules each day for what can and what can't happen in reality, and if the world happened to go mad on that day then it just felt to me like I was learning the world had always worked a certain way.

If anything the weird/disturbing thing about the whole event, looking back, was how simple it seemed. It made the world feel a lot more solved than it already was. Made the bad guys a lot easier to laugh at too. When I was 20 or 21, so just a couple years ago, I read an excerpt from Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow and felt this overwhelming terror and insecurity. Like, how the fuck can the world be so broken and cruel, and nobody ever says a word about it? How can there be such violence, such evil, and everybody keeps focusing on a bunch of fucking terrorists who want to bomb a plane or a train or whatever? How come we focus on the moments of showmanship, the wannabe icons, when the real problems are so vast that they're practically Sauron-eque in scope and magnitude?

As I've grown up and learned to stalk my generation with Facebook, I feel that you generally get three categories of reactions to events like this. You get the overblown patriotism, the talking points-spouters; I've been one of those. You get the overabundance-of-perspective types, the people who are so frustrated about the disproportionate attention paid to events seemingly at random that they will express an undying hatred of you if you're not talking about whichever global-level horror that's personally affected their life or their family. And in between you get the people who don't feel the need to talk about it much, because they just accepted that what happened has happened, and that life's gonna go on pretty much the same, same fucked-up problems, same moments of humanity and horror, and if 9/11 signaled the death of American idealism or the birth of the security state or whateverthehell else, well, it was going to happen anyway. 9/11's just a particularly pretty poster for people to adorn their metaphorical walls with.

It's weird thinking there are people who don't take 9/11 for granted, or that in fact that's most people who weren't 11 at the time. I dunno if I mind that my fantasies of American heroism and security were blasted away when I was that young. I wish more of my fantasies had been killed and at even younger ages. Screw this notion that childhood ought to be an idyllic time. Childhood is where you ought to be taught to love the good things in life without trying to ignore the bad.

As to what memories seem accurate versus which seem inaccurate, all I know is that we all knew Bin Laden's name approximately 5 minutes after we first heard about 9/11. I still suspect that your average 6th grade class could replace CNN, NBC, CBS, and of course FOX, and you'd wind up with faster and more accurate reporting than you'd get otherwise. Coagulated bodies of children are a remarkably powerful (and underexploited) force.
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:34 PM on September 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


Finally, we got to Social Studies and our teacher told us that they weren't supposed to say anything but that two planes had hit the World Trade Centers.

It's really weird to me that some schools tried to prevent their students from learning what was happening. Ours was just so incredibly matter-of-fact about it. This is what happened, softball has been cancelled, fingers have been discovered in the meatball subs.
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:38 PM on September 11, 2013


Oh and there's a Scale of Memorable School Events that I put together a couple of years ago that puts things in proper context. These are basically the only major events that happened that I have any recollection of whatsoever, in order of how vividly they stand out in my mind.

1) Two kids in my grade dying in a car accident the night before our last day of school pre-winter break.
2) Apple announcing the iPhone (pretty sure I skipped my last class that day to gawk at the promotional material).
3) Accidentally discovering porn thanks to Newgrounds banner ads.
4) Learning what the "register" button did on a forum.
5) 9/11.
6) Trash-talking my asshole friend Andrew on Neopets ("You are an @$$" because I was terrified of spelling out actual cuss words).

9/11 was an eerie event, but not an especially exciting one. Sure, it was gory and kids gossiped about it all day, but when you're 11 years old literally everything is gory and gossip-worthy. Gogos, Goldeneye, Stephen King books, older siblings... as far as traumatizing events go 9/11 doesn't hold a candle to the first time somebody linked me to Tubgirl two years later.
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:50 PM on September 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's really weird to me that some schools tried to prevent their students from learning what was happening.

culture of control. they couldn't help it.
posted by philip-random at 11:13 PM on September 11, 2013


, but when you're 11 years old literally everything is gory and gossip-worthy. Gogos, Goldeneye, Stephen King books, older siblings... as far as traumatizing events go 9/11 doesn't hold a candle to the first time somebody linked me to Tubgirl two years later.

I was 16 and had serious thoughts that I might get drafted and join A War and spent like a week in a miasma of confusion and panic.

I'm sure my younger brother sees things differently, but the whole situation occurred to me from within the windowless computer room of a NJ high school with everyone trying to refresh Yahoo! cause we where SO not doing our PowerPoint lesson today. Military recruitment as high on the list of subjects of remember being talked about. I actually remembering saying it was good that I was openly gay so I couldn't be drafted and someone saying that didn't matter, they'd need people in administration and tech.

It was a weird time. just remember people being called into the Office to know if their parents where safe cause so many of them worked in lower Manhattan. And how we kinda had to have a school day but no one really wanted to so every teacher was kinda "reflect on events!" and then just went to whatever. I walked home early and played with Cat the Cat a lot, I got out her favorite toy (Mousey) and did all the throwing, burying, hiding. I gave her uncooked bacon after, as a reward for finding Mousey. My Mom came home and was glued to the TV. My younger brother didn't give a shit. (he had his own playstation, this was a big. deal) I spent a lot (a lot) of time on the internet and fell asleep with Cat the Cat purring her heart out. I remember the next day only cause it was the only day Cat The Cat didn't meow or cry or demand to be fed RIGHT NOW upon my waking as was her habit. I woke up, and she put a paw right on my mouth (oh god you dig in liter with that) and curled up by my head and purred louder then I thought possible for a full half hour before I had to get up. After another hour passed (i had...totally missed first period but who the fuck cared) she licked the area about my chin and started pushing my head around, trying to get me up. It worked. And I showered. And I fed Cat. But I had the house to myself on 8/12. And I spent it with Cat cause I couldn't make myself turn on the TV.
posted by The Whelk at 11:38 PM on September 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

Rory Marinich: “It's really weird to me that some schools tried to prevent their students from learning what was happening.”
Through a series of tragic life-events over the last eighteen months that there's no real need to go into, I've wound up back under the same roof with my father and brother, and more recently my brother's girlfriend and her two children, ages five and two. The oldest one just started kindergarten. The school mascot are the Patriots.

Yesterday kind of snuck up on me. In fact I didn't really think about it until they sent home a note Monday that they wanted everyone to wear red, white, and blue to school Wednesday. They had a thing for the kindergarten age children where they explained that September 11th is "Patriot's Day" — which don't even get me started — and they should commemorate it by helping out at school and around the house. I'm not sure what else they covered, but when asked the child knew planes crashed into "hotels" in New York, the buildings burned down, and people helped each other.

My brother's girlfriend was incensed. She thought five was too young and didn't want to hear that it's essentially unavoidable. I argued that beside the fact it would be on the news, the older kids would let something slip one way or another. She didn't want to hear that. We went three rounds and the conversation ended when after she had wound me up a little — I had gone the whole day without feeling the familiar tightness in my chest — I said, "You know I was in Washington, right?"

"So what?"

"So tread lightly," I snarled.

Now she's not speaking to me. So I've got that going for me. Which is nice.


I'm not sure if I've ever posted or linked my full September 11th story in four-part-harmony-with-circles-and-arrows-and-a-paragraph-on-the-back-of-each-one-explaining-what-each-one-was here, but I think I'll refrain. The only relevant details are that I was born within sight of the top of the Twin Towers and up until I got the call to turn on the television that morning, September 11th, 2001 had been the best day of my life. Then the man I was before collapsed along with the Towers. I haven't been the same since, much to my regret.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:22 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yesterday was also mine and my SO's six-year anniversary. He worked in a call centre at the time and didn't know anything about it until he got home. Neither did my then-boyfriend.

It seems weird in the days of smartphones and most office workers having internet access throughout the day, but there was a time when you wouldn't know about breaking news until you got home to check the TV or the papers, or if you were lucky enough to have home dial-up or ADSL, BBC news. BBC News 24 I think didn't launch until 2002, and even then few homes had access to digital channels until a couple of years later. (In the flat I shared in early 2005, we had basic TV and no home internet, because neither was yet affordable.)

My office has a large monitor in it tuned to Sky, and I can constantly see the 'breaking news' aston out of the corner of my eye - if an event of similar magnitude happened, we'd all be watching it live as it unfolded. When Thatcher died, which was obviously a massive news story in the UK, people gathered round the screen to see what was going on. Twelve years ago, you'd probably only have got that in newsrooms, not offices, and nobody was letting you know via Twitter either.
posted by mippy at 1:59 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Guardian has an article on inappropriate commercial tributes to 9/11 (contains tweet by Mathowie, and repulsive non-apology by Esquire).
posted by Wordshore at 2:01 AM on September 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


I can see Freedom Tower (tm) out my living room window. I lived more uptown on 9/11. I wuz there 2.

License to vent, accepted. But I waited until 9/12, and wish it so noted for the record.

Count me among those who is happy to see the hoopla recede now that we realize it wasn't just 2900 Americans who died that day, but many of our (even my, lefty that I am) illusions about what kind of country we live in, 100,000+ Iraqi civilians, 7500 or so American soldiers, not to mention all those wounded, all the drone strikes and torture sessions and indefinite detentions and renditions and anti-Muslim bigotry and surveillance accepted as the price of "freedom", and jingoism, impugned patriotism, and domestic political paralysis.

You'd almost suspect the while thing went according to plan. Whose plan remains an open question for me.

I won't get into how I think it really went down. I hope someday we will know and it will revise the maudlun, mindless sentimental-patriotic bullshit KoolAid historical narrative that still prevails in the US about that day.

Glad another one is over, is all.
posted by spitbull at 3:53 AM on September 12, 2013


I watched from half a world away - awake in the middle of the night for some long forgotten reason, but I don't forget my children waking up to go to school and trying to make sense of it and what I thought the future was going to be like for them (and I'm glad I was wrong). But sadly, the most notable thing for me about this anniversary has been my reaction to the way Australian news has positioned this terrible thing as the most tragic event of the 21st century. Did the tsunami happen earlier? Does it not count as tragic? Why even do we ask or say this is the worst? It was terrible and tragic - please can we not rank it?

My thoughts are with all those who suffered and lost as a result.
posted by b33j at 3:58 AM on September 12, 2013


Lord, if I die in a terrorist attack please don't let me be memorialized in a vinyl cut window sticker or muffin buffet, amen.

I talked to my parents about this kind of thing once. The analogy I used to describe how I felt about the national reaction was: Imagine that your cousin dies in a horrible accident, something that's big enough to make the news. You're sad, of course; but the accident is so tragic that people who hear about it in the news start reaching out to you and expressing sympathy. And at first the fact that so many strangers are affected by your cousin's death is comforting. You get a few people you didn't know your cousin knew, and you do hear a few stories about cool shit your cousin did that you didn't know about, and that's wonderful; but mostly it's strangers who are moved by what happened itself.

but then as time goes on, those strangers all start talking amongst themselves, and commiserating amongst themselves, about how tragic your cousin's death was and how horrible it was, and how hurt they are by it - and they start planning a memorial, and throwing themselves all into it, and the more people start planning the more strangers also join in. Except - they don't know your cousin, all they know about your cousin is the circumstances of their death.

Now, some people in your family are fine with this, but others - you and a couple other people - start hearing them get things wrong about who your cousin was and what they would have liked. Maybe they got the music wrong or they said your cousin would have loved Oprah to speak at this, but you know that Oprah would have made your cousin gag; but there are just so many of these strangers planning things that you're outnumbered, and anyway when you try to speak up a lot of people just shout you down. And so you're stuck watching this whole thing spring up around What Your Cousin Was Like, based on nothing more than the projections and wish-fulfillment of a lot of people who didn't even know about them until they died, while you, an actual family member, is left out of the planning.

That was how I felt for a couple years after the fact. I'm more forgiving now - I understand the "Woman Makes Flag Cake" impulse that was going on outside New York a little better - but I also see how that fed the national political response, and I'm still seeing a lot of hypocrisy in how politicians exploit this day for their own means but then turn around and shun actual New Yorkers affected by 9/11 (Zagroda bill, anyone?); but I understand a little better what it was like for the people outside the city.

But any kind of commemorative kitsch, like commemorative fucking wine, makes me spit tacks.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:36 AM on September 12, 2013 [14 favorites]


I was on my insanely tiny (~150 on-campus students), very progressive/liberal college campus in Vermont. We didn't have TV, and though internet access may have been widespread by then, it wasn't a huge part of our lives. I don't remember who told me what happened, or really, anything much about that day. Except for my friend, who was from New York, and lived off campus in Montpelier (the capital of Vermont), freaking out- she'd been told from people back home that it was possible "they" were planning to bomb capital cities. Despite my being skeptical (uh, it's Vermont), I accompanied her to her apartment where she packed a bag to stay on our campus in Plainfield for a few days.

But none of the other people I hung out with really talked about the terror aspect of it- we talked about the what the fuck??? aspect and we talked about what the ramifications might be, etc, but even that didn't go on for long. It was almost as if we were taking a "wait and see" approach- let's wait and see what this event means in the broader scheme of the United States and the world before we react- we were understandably wary, knowing America's tendency to seriously fuck shit up. Besides, the semester had just started (it was my last year), we were very isolated on our commune campus, and it took both a lot of energy and a lot of [chemically induced] downtime to emotionally survive there. So for me and for many of the people I was closest to, 9/11 was no different than hearing about an earthquake across the world- sad and interesting, but not life shattering. I stayed in Vermont without TV and with limited internet access after I'd graduated, and to this day I've maybe seen that video of the planes going into the towers once, but I may just have created a video from one of the many still images I've seen since then.

When I finally came back to Connecticut ["civilization" in body and spirit compared to where I'd been] all that was left of 9/11 was the aftermath- horribly tattered American flags attached to people's car antennas (this blew my mind), the war in Iraq, and an insanely creepy and scary nationalism that had seemingly taken over everyone- it was like Invasion of the Body Snatchers: Xenophobia. And then, later, for me, 9/11 was so many civilians being killed for no discernible reason and so many rights being eroded, and having been raised Muslim, so much hatred toward that religion from my supposed countrymen.

Anyway, consequently, I'm one of those people who don't really get the whole 9/11 thing on that visceral level. Only when Katrina happened did it start to make some sense to me. I don't know if Katrina affected me so much because I had better access to media (still no TV, because seriously why, but speedy internet access) and because the people looked like me and because the situation spoke to that deep fear that some poor people and some brown people [I] have, that we're disposable and that our very own country, not strangers from somewhere else, doesn't care about us. And though I've never had the urge/need to revisit the horribleness of Katrina every year, the embodiment of that fear playing out still lives with me, and I suppose there is a similar, but different underlying fear for people who are still greatly affected by 9/11. For that reason alone, I think these sorts of posts are necessary.
posted by eunoia at 7:35 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just want to let everyone know that if I die please memorialize me with the following food items:

1) Totino's pizza rolls, but only the pepperoni ones.
2) Snyders of Hanover Honey Mustard and Onion pretzel nibblers.
3) BBQ wings or deviled eggs from the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que on 125th and 12th, not the one in Brooklyn.
4) Dinty Moore beef stew. Because when is the last time you had Dinty Moore beef stew.
5) Those babybel cheeses with the red wax.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:12 AM on September 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Probably the thing I hate most in the world is when I see the words "Never Forget". (This ain't about your post OP, at all. Your thread is fine. It's the entire rest of the media.) It's gotten better over the years, minus a bump after the 10th anniversary, or else I've gotten better and better at avoiding the media.

I've avoided almost all the footage then and since, or else blocked it out. I never saw people jumping. I mean I must have. But you know.

I don't begrudge others their "Never Forgets" because we all deal in different ways. I think most of my friends who were in New York at the time aggressively forget, or else we make terrible inappropriate jokes. I left NY the following year, in some small part to get away from all the bullshit that had developed around the yearly remembrance.

What I do begrudge is the non-person, the corporate "Never Forgets". How could it be anything but disingenuous? It's all coupons for free freedom fries in memory of our fallen heros.

If it matters to you, it will always leave people shaped holes in you. If it doesn't, why remember? To hold a grudge? Certainly not because we've learned any worthwhile lessons from the decade following.
posted by danny the boy at 9:26 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I joined Metafilter because of that thread.
posted by tommasz at 9:39 AM on September 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Metafilter was a haven that day, and in the following days. There was news, not just the incessant re-playing of the same video clips. There were links to moving stories about people who died. And so much more in the comments. Even some humor. MeFi was 2 years old, and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 had a lot to do with making it a real community. Like a lot of people, the threads and community were a big reason for joining. Browse the archives - it wasn't just that 1st post, there were many, many posts related to the attacks, the politics, and the people. Far, far more informative than the mainstream media. Metafilter shone on 9-11-2001, because it's a community of smart interesting people.
posted by theora55 at 10:35 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


On 2 trips to NYC, travel companions insisted on visiting the site. The 1st time, flyers and memorials were still up, though tattered. All I could think was that we were visiting a gravesite, the scene of a huge, violent tragedy, and it just felt awful. The 2nd time, I refused to go, but my friend got lost and texted me to meet her there. I'd be willing to go now, memorialize the fallen, and visit the museum some day. Thanks to Metafilter's honest reporting of the people who jumped, I'll never think of the site without thinking of that horror and feeling for the jumpers, and the families who recognized the jumper by his or her clothes, etc.

Never forget? C'mon, you think Americans will forget the attack? I guess it was similar after Pearl Harbor, but we were scrambling to go to war, so it wasn't an empty tribute. Want something to not forget? How about the fact that we still have soldiers at war in Afghanistan, because of those attacks? My son spent a year in combat because of the attacks. home safely, now, but there's a lot of parents, spouses, siblings, family and friends who won't forget the soldiers sent to Iraq and Afghanistan, and the soldiers who came home draped in a flag, or wounded physically and/or mentally.

Or maybe sometime we could talk about the Mideast and Muslims hating us for our staunch, uncritical support of Israel, or the many despots we helped put in place and supported. The arms shipments. They may disapprove of some of our freedoms, like equality for women, sexual freedom, and more, but that's what they're really pissed about. Plus, take countries with a lousy economy, lots of unemployed young men, lots of injustice, and recruiting people to your army of Islam shouldn't be too difficult.
posted by theora55 at 10:58 AM on September 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh my god, that Esquire error is hilarious. I wish it had been deliberate.
posted by Rory Marinich at 12:20 PM on September 12, 2013


Since I started this, I'll add my story, though it's not that interesting.

I was dead asleep at home in Indianapolis after working a 12 hour shift the night before. I'm a very heavy sleeper and my wife couldn't get me to wake up. When I finally did wake up that afternoon, I saw the second tower falling on TV. I was running late to work, so there wasn't much time to talk about it. She was very upset.

At that time, I made insulin at Eli Lilly. Work was weird. For the first time ever, I had to show my ID badge to get into the building. I had known the security guard on a first name basis for 3 years. Over the next few days and weeks, the place became like Fort Knox. The plant I worked in and the one next door made more than half of the world's insulin supply between them. Our management seriously thought that made us the obvious next target for an attack. My coworkers and I thought that was ridiculous.

In between our duties running the process, one PC in the control room played the same CNN clips over and over. I used the other PC to read this amazing post about what was happening -- written by people who were actually there -- on a little blue website called Metafilter. It was so much better than the news. We now know that some things were flat wrong, but they weren't as wrong or as out of touch as CNN. Those guys sounded like they couldn't find their asses with both hands and a flashlight.

So I was spared the visceral horror of watching this terrible thing unfold in real time. I was spared the sights and sounds and smells of being there. That doesn't mean that I was unaffected; I don't think anyone was unaffected. My wife had just told me three days before that she was pregnant with our third baby. My experience consisted of constantly refreshing a blue web page and wondering with a cold pit in my stomach about what kind of terrible world faced my unborn baby and his brothers.
posted by double block and bleed at 1:25 PM on September 12, 2013


Reflecting further, worse than the eagle-tear-never-forget-share-this-candle posts are the recitation-of-the-real-facts-9/11-was-an-inside-job-wake-up-sheeple posts on Facebook.
posted by ob1quixote at 2:31 PM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


worse than the eagle-tear-never-forget-share-this-candle posts are the recitation-of-the-real-facts-9/11-was-an-inside-job-wake-up-sheeple posts on Facebook.

Oh, God, the Truthers make me - just - fla-flames, flames on the side of my face....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:25 PM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've occasionally been seeing Truthers set up near the Art Gallery. Here in Vancouver. CANADA. 12 years after the fact. It just brings a whole new dimension of crazy into it, these people thinking they need to get Canadians on board, for....what end exactly?
posted by Hoopo at 4:25 PM on September 12, 2013



Finally, we got to Social Studies and our teacher told us that they weren't supposed to say anything but that two planes had hit the World Trade Centers.


MY kids watched the second plane hit in real time. They were all watching tv in their high school classes.

Bear in mind a not insignificant proportion of their classmates had at least one parent in the military.


The ripples of that day still tear at my community.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:38 PM on September 12, 2013


For what it's worth, two years later at the same school, my 8th grade math teacher let us watch the news during the Shock and Awe campaign.
posted by A Bad Catholic at 10:59 PM on September 12, 2013


I joined Metafilter because of that thread.

Because a few days later, I read At Metafilter, a prominent community weblog, the reactions were more muted on Salon, then clicked on that thread, then came back every few days to see what else was posted and then ended up joining a week and a day later.
For a while thereafter, I thought that Miguel Cardoso was like the mayor and stavrosthewonderchicken the city manager. Then I found out they were actually more like Hitler and Ho Chi Minh here, respectively. At that time....
posted by y2karl at 12:52 AM on September 13, 2013


Miguel as Hilter? So stavs is Ho? then that makes you...Mary fucking Poppins?
posted by clavdivs at 6:34 AM on September 13, 2013


Including one of the most prescient comments ever made on MetaFilter.
posted by clavdivs at 6:38 AM on September 13, 2013


Including one of the most prescient comments ever made on MetaFilter.


Wow.

Hey, everyone, here's the specific comment. And I'm a little freaked out by geoff now.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:53 AM on September 13, 2013


clavdivs: Including one of the most prescient comments ever made on MetaFilter.

Seriously, WTF. That's creepy. Is that a time stamp glitch, or just a really eerie coincidence?
posted by Rock Steady at 7:49 AM on September 13, 2013


Eerie coincidence. The thing to keep in mind there is that Bin Laden didn't like burst onto the scene as some ingenue on the big day; it's weird timing, but so is me hearing a guy say "Campbell" on a podcast while riding past Campbell St. on my bike. It's just that nobody bombed Campbell St. the next day.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:01 AM on September 13, 2013


Yet.
posted by The Whelk at 8:10 AM on September 13, 2013


cortex: The thing to keep in mind there is that Bin Laden didn't like burst onto the scene as some ingenue on the big day

Oh, I get that, I just think it was weird to see his name and coded instructions mentioned so close to the event. There were some time stamp irregularities back in the early days, weren't there?
posted by Rock Steady at 8:26 AM on September 13, 2013


Yeah, but (a) those irregularities were generally on the order of hours or minutes (server clock in wrong timezone or out of by a few minutes, etc) rather than days, and besides (b) someone making that comment right after the attacks and then nobody blinking would be pretty weird in its own right. So weirdness ends up making more sense on the balance, basically.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:38 AM on September 13, 2013


cortex: So weirdness ends up making more sense on the balance, basically.

I find this generally to be the case.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:59 AM on September 13, 2013


But this does not explain " A Prairie Home Companion"
posted by clavdivs at 7:35 AM on September 16, 2013


Miguel as Hilter? So stavs is Ho? then that makes you...Mary fucking Poppins?

Like I said, Miguel seemed like the mayor at first glance, no doubt from his sheer good humored ubiquity. Then I discovered MetaTalk where, for a large contingent, he was more the Beast of the Apocalypse. A role filled by many another since, let it be noted. And, no, Wilford fuckin Brimley, stavs is not Ho. That was prosaic license, no doubt ill advised.
posted by y2karl at 4:45 PM on September 16, 2013


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