Thoughts on 9/11

I wasn’t thinking about writing about 9/11 in this space. It’s not really a China-focused issue — Chinese people died on 9/11 but the country hasn’t participated in Afghanistan or Iraq — and the personal connection it has for me is a very tenuous one. The reason I am writing about 9/11 is because I just finished reading Chris Adrian’s Promise Breaker.

Adrian is a pediatrician and a Divinity student who frequently writes about the events of 9/11. Promise Breaker combines all of those parts of Adrian’s personality into one great piece — it’s about a child who is possessed by the souls of the dead from 9/11 and the child is treated by a pediatric psychologist in the story.

When I read the piece it brought me back to that day. I was a 22-year-old, fourth-year journalism student at Carleton University and I was having my first class in community newspaper journalism (the paper is called Centretown News). I remember the class had just started and one of our teaching assistants came in and said a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Our professor jokingly asked him if he was on drugs and the class began. It wasn’t until we took a break that we realized the TA wasn’t joking and we spent about an hour watching the towers — and effectively the world as we knew it at that time — come down.

By that time, I’d been chosen Editor of the paper for the first three issues. And all that I remember from the rest of that day — besides talking about it with everyone — was sitting in our newsroom with my professor and trying to map out the first issue with the news editor and deciding how we were going to deal with this. The personal significance of this day to me isn’t the fact that I was there when 9/11 happened but the fact that it was the first time I had to make a decision not to cover something.

We decided not to do a 9/11 issue because well it wasn’t in our scope. The paper came out every two weeks and even though people would still feel the impact the news impact would be gone. It was also outside our scope. We knew that people who died in the towers or on the planes or in the Pentagon may have been from downtown Ottawa, but we knew the major papers would have covered them by the time we published. As we were talking about this, CBC Radio was on in the background and it was repeating the events of the day over and over from so many different angles. As a journalism student, I understood why we were doing this. It was logically, we’d lose out to the majors who could get all the up-to-the-minute news out there and the public would frankly be sick of it by the time we published, but I felt disgusted anyway. These were human beings — some of whom were sure to be Canadian and we needed to acknowledge that.

9/11 faded into the background after that. It would come up a few times again in my life. I remember the sense of disgust mixed with understanding that I felt when I heard that some Chinese were happy that the towers fell. They saw it as revenge for the 1999 NATO bombing of the Chinese embassy in Serbia. I can understand their anger, but for them to wish death on another people is never justified in my eyes.

9/11 appeared again this year and really struck home. I keep hearing it referenced to Iraq — a war I find unjustified and one I’m happy that Canada and China did not choose to participate in — and also in talk of a possible war with Iran. That day is starting to appear in fiction too. Don DeLillo’s Falling Man (I’m taking this with me on my Spring Festival vacation) and John Updike’s Terrorist. It’s with this that it really became evident to me that 9/11 and its aftermath are defining events for my generation. For my grandparents it was World War II, for my parents it was Vietnam but for me it’s 9/11.

There’s one more personal connection to 9/11 that I forgot to mention. I was living off campus that year in my first apartment. It was a bachelor. It was small but it was home and a place I was really proud of — it was mine. That apartment’s number was 911. I remember when I moved in, someone made a comment that oh I must be safe there. But now I associate that number with the world coming crashing down.

J.

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1 Comment

Filed under Canada & Other Outer Realms, Personal, Reading List

One response to “Thoughts on 9/11

  1. TD

    Gee, Professor K sure does have a sensitive way to deal with the news…

    Tobin (current Ctown editor)

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