The first thing that I think of now is how surprising it is that 10 years have passed. Back then, it was such a momentous event that it seemed like "10 years in the future" would take an age to arrive because of all of the intervening drama, score-settling and transnational upheavals that would need to take place first. But, here we are, 10 years later, and with a world that feels much more changed by 9/11 than, probably, it actually is.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, I still remember much of the day quite clearly. It was just another late summer day, quite nice as I recall, but I was at work. We had MW staying with us that week because the ballet was in town, and we were due off on a two-week holiday to France at the end of the week. The first I heard of anything untoward was some remark in the corridor that a plane had hit the WTC. As I suspect many people did, I figured what was meant was some accident and didn't really give it a second thought. I don't think that I even looked online for information at that point. But an update a few minutes later, that a second plane had crashed into the WTC, got my attention and the penny dropped. Then, as the towers fell, and again probably unsurprisingly, one of my initial thoughts was of the closing scene of the 1999 film Fight Club, which I'd finally seen a few months previously. But it was immediately obvious that this was quite a different kind of event from that portrayed in the film (where empty towers are destroyed in anti-consumerist rage). I don't remember much else of that afternoon, just that it was probably the only occasion I've known where the whole internet was brought to a standstill by the jam of traffic on it.
I remember the evening better. MW's ballet was actually cancelled because of the unfolding events on the East Coast, and we spent the whole evening, until the early hours, watching the whole spectacle on television. And I say that without meaning to sound outrageously uncaring. Even then, before it had really sunk in, it was a pretty spectacular, if utterly appalling, event. And the repeated replay and analysis, both on television and in our living room discussions, made for a vivid and surreal evening. There wasn't a whole lot of doubt about who'd done it, the earlier attempted bombing made that pretty clear, but it was, and still is, pretty shocking about just how successful they'd been. Even today it still strikes me as an incredibly audacious attack, though I suspect it was considerably more successful than its idiotic planners dared to hope. And, on that evening, it pretty successfully shocked-and-awed us. It also, and this seems unspeakably callous, was singularly exciting. Out there in the world a Big Event was happening and, thanks to global media coverage, we all had ringside seats. That this event was so clearly, and so shockingly, directed at innocent people made retaliation and retribution both inevitable and justifiable. As such, there was a palpable frisson as one righteously (as it seemed then) contemplated justice.
Of course, things haven't exactly worked out anywhere near as black and white as they seemed 10 years ago. To say the least. But that's a whole other blog post.
In passing, I just wanted to plug what I still think of as some of the best coverage of 9/11 - the Onion's special issue two weeks after the event. It's satire, but for me it more clear-sightedly captures and contextualises 9/11 than most of what the mainstream media was doing. It nailed the conflicting emotions (horror, excitement, revenge, despair), and wasn't afraid to point out inconvenient truths about the attackers (e.g. who'd been bankrolling them throughout the 1980s).