This blog began a couple of months after September 11, 2001, and while the attacks and their aftermath can neither be blamed nor credited, something in the air at the time about 24-hour news and multiple sources was part of the zeitgeist that inspired it.
I was supposed to work that afternoon at the studio. I woke around 9, made coffee and glanced over a few familiar spots on the net. I was still reading Usenet then, and one of my haunts was a newsgroup with a tradition of posting memorial haiku for dead notables.
The first thing I saw was this:
From: Ranjit Bhatnagar
Subject: Bang bang
Airplanes are smashing
Into the World Trade Center
I think I’ll stay home
I still had a TV then, so I reached over and switched it on. For the next sixteen hours I stayed glued to both screens – nobody was doing anything else that day and the studio had called and said it was pointless to come in. I was glad of the TV because most media web servers were knocked over. Many of them put up a single news page for hours to cope with the onslaught.
President Obama has sent a thank you note to Stephen Harper for Canada’s help that day, particularly praising the folks of Gander, who absorbed thousands of stranded passengers into their small town for days. It’s slightly ironic given that neither man was in power at the time, but only fair considering that George W. Bush never did.
But that reminds me of a circumstance that puzzled me at the time, and still does. U.S. airspace was closed that day as soon as authorities twigged to the multi-pronged attack. Planes started landing in Canada. I remember watching Peter Mansbridge enumerating the flights landing in Vancouver… Winnipeg… Toronto… Halifax… Gander. He didn’t miss a beat, but I did. Not one landed here in Montreal. I waited for some explanation and it never came: had the U.S. decided Montreal was a hotbed of angry Muslim expats and best avoided, or had Canada made that decision for it? Or did Dorval Airport, as it was then, simply close its own door? If this has ever been clarified, I’ve missed it.
It’s not difficult to find stories this weekend about the events ten years ago. Our media have special sections – Radio-Canada, La Presse, Le Devoir – and interactive features like the CBC’s where were you and Le Devoir’s où étiez-vous. I don’t think these are merely cynical ploys to engage the readership: everyone has a story, even one as bland as mine told above.
The Journal de Montréal spoke to two folks from Quebec who were perilously close to the towers on the day about the nightmarish images that dogged their lives afterwards, but to some extent we all felt a touch of that. In most lives there are only a few days when we all go “whoa! we’ve just turned a collective corner!” and this was one of them.