A Day Of Forgetting

I woke up early than usual on the morning September 11, 2001 and went about my usual routine of reading the CNN and BBC webpages while the coffee was brewing. I have an incredibly strong sixth sense when it comes to my network and immediately I knew that there was some high latency and congestion “out there.” The CNN page finally loaded in the stripped-down “our bandwidth is saturated!” design and I got as far as reading the “plane hits World Trade Center” headline before running into the next room to turn on the television – just in time to see United 175 hit the south tower.

In direct succession my exact thoughts were:

  1. Holy Fucking Shit
  2. The burning papers falling out of the WTC remind me of that scene in Brazil where the papers blow out of the Ministry.
  3. Ummm… How exactly is the right-wing going to respond to this?

At the lack of a better plan, I went to work – figuring that if World War III is going to start I’d be better off with the higher-speed Internet connection at UCI. Somewhere on the interchange from the south I-5 to the southbound CA-55 was where the news broke that the towers had collapsed. No one really got much work done, I spent the day watching the BBC QuickTime stream and reposting newsfeed headlines from the CNN irc server to ILX. The ten threads (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10) make for some harrowing reading…

Two things I wrote back then stick out:

Let’s see… Borders closed, air traffic suspended, police departments on tactical alert, several banking headquarters in the WTC destroyed. Seems like this sequence of events would send the survivalist/Y2K cult/retreatist groups into a spindizzy. I fear that the reaction/possible over-reaction in the ensuing fallout might be even worse than today’s events.

and then later on

I would both love and hate to be a fly on the wall at the CIA/NSA right now – I can’t can’t begin to imagine the collective reaming that’s going on. I suspect that when all this plays out the intelligence puzzle pieces that led up to this will have been pretty obvious, but lacking the “big picture” we simply could not have turned the discreet pieces of data into usuable information.

Even if there was prior knowledge, the sheer scale of the attack may have not caused it to be taken seriously. If you told me that four separate airliners were going to be simultaneously hijacked and then crashed into symbolic targets with massive loss of life, I’d say you had the script from the next Jerry Bruckheimer movie.

Probably the most interesting news here on out is going to be what’s in between the lines and what the govt. over-reaction and consequental loss of liberty/privacy is going to be. I’m hoping for the best, but I fear the worst.

Five years onward, today is apparently the day to reference “America,” “Freedom,” “God,” and/or “Evil” and depending on your litmus-tested political position, you’re either honoring the dead of 9/11, the thousands of troops killed in an uncertain response, or the tens of thousands of Iraqi and Afghani civilians. There’s a lot to object about the “Patriot Day” nomenclature, it’s purpose and wording is as vague and downright evasive as the entire Bush II administration. I suppose we all get the holiday we deserve.

I still kinda like the dorky, old-school Americana of Patriots’ Day. Supposedly, it’s a big deal in Massachusetts, Maine, and Wisconsin, but for little ole pre-MTV Laguna Beach it was time for the Patriot’s Day Parade – the one day of the year when the hippie beach town of the Pacific put it’s best Norman Rockwell foot forward and wondered what it would be like to be one of those towns in the East that you only see in sepia-toned photos… Fire department pancake breakfasts, American Legion halls, city officials riding on the back of vintage convertibles, etc. I was in the boy scouts in the 70s and part of Troop 35’s duty was to carry the display banners during the parade and somewhere out there is a photo of me doing just that. I’m sure if I saw it now, I wouldn’t even recognize myself. By the way, the Patriot’s Day Parade is still going strong and much to my delight it’s still kinda dorky and still adheres to its policy of “no group with a political or religious agenda can participate,” no matter how hard someone tries to sue.

I’ve been reading a lot about World War I recently. Not out of any agenda on my part, I just don’t know that much about it except for the basic details and a lifetime of watching Paths Of Glory and The Blue Max. I did have a great uncle who was a reconnaissance pilot in the Royal Air Corps, but my prevalent memory of anything World War I-related was being in London for another eleventh day – November 11, 1973: the 55th anniversary of the Armistice, a.k.a. Remembrance Day. I had just turned eight years old and despite a working knowledge of all things related to WWI aviation, I hadn’t still quite worked out what the hell The Great War (apparently World War II was still fresh enough in people’s minds then to not yet be “The Good War”) was all about. London was covered in a carpet of red poppies and my mom and I crowded into Whitechapel to see the Queen lay a wreath at a memorial and then decorate a group of surviving WWI veterans. Not all that different from the veterans you see at those local parades I was talking about earlier.

One of the key events leading up to World War I sounds very similar to a certain event in the Current Situation: Massive loss of life. Warnings that were readily available had anyone bothered to take them seriously. Conspiracy theories about pre-planted explosives and whether a government had allowed the event to happen. Public outrage which is manipulated and channelled into policies that lead to greater conflict. What is envisioned as a quick war (become peace is so boring!) becomes a bloody massacre on all sides.

My first inkling about the Lusitania wasn’t a memorial, a day of remembrance, or a news item – it was a jigsaw puzzle of the front page of the New York Times from May 7, 1915.
lusitania-nytimes.jpg

I doubt that most average folks now remember the Lusitania or even what World War I was about and I wonder what the people of 2091 will know of today. Today the Lusitania is a diver’s destination, an annoyance to local fisherman, and an subject of perpetual lawsuits over who owns want. With all of the hand-wringing, political posturing, words and angst expounded over what to do with the WTC site and how to best remember things, it’s worth bearing in mind that no matter what the outcome is it’ll eventually end up being a dusty sidenote collecting rust and weeds. The real memorial will be how we as a country acted and there my deep cynicism turns to deep disgust.

Maybe it’s just best to leave it as a big hole in the ground.

P.S. I’m just as much of a JFK conspiracy guy as the next fellow, but the next person that says “September 11th is the new JFK assassination” is going to get socked. September 11th is the new September 11th. Period. k thx bye.

Author: Chris Barrus

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