September 11th, 2001, to me, had everything to be a day like any other. Normality, however, lasted only as long as it took between turning off the alarm clock and turning on the TV. My first reaction was surprise as I saw what seemed to be a chimney being broadcast. It took a few seconds for the eyes to clear and the brain to really wake up, and then realize that it was actually a building on fire. I then became aware that a plane had crashed against the World Trade Center. When reality of this news was still setting in, a second airplane appears and dives into the other tower. Shock. It couldn’t be a coincidence, but the alternative felt too surreal, too fictional to be true. But it was.
I don’t know the exact reason, but the terrorist attacks that brought down the Twin Towers nearly ten years ago affected me a lot. My sense of identification with the American culture probably collaborated to that. The similarities between the events and the stories told in Tom Clancy books – which I used to read a lot back then – weighed in. Perhaps the most significant factor is that was, in global terms, the biggest event I’ve witnessed in my lifetime, something that many years into the future will probably be in History books as a key moment. And I was there watching, almost from the beginning.
On Sunday evening, I was watching a movie (The Lady Vanishes, by Alfred Hitchcock). It ended; I logged on to Twitter and saw a couple of vague messages about Osama’s possible death. The subject wasn’t even among the trending topics yet (trending topics, or TTs, are the most commented terms on Twitter at a particular time). Like a wave, Osama Bin Laden, #obl, Abbottabad and other related terms started dominating the most commented topics. Communication vehicles turned their attention to what seemed to be the most important news in a long time. Shortly after that, US president Barack Obama started his statement, in which he confirmed that a military action by the United States has located and killed the world’s most famous and wanted terrorist. Officially, the end of an era. The party in the streets of Washington and New York, from what I’ve heard, didn’t end soon.
In a certain way, it’s strange to celebrate someone’s death. Deep down, there’s a feeling of guilt, which I hope is not only mine, because it’s healthy to hold at least a little mercy even for those who don’t deserve it. And Bin Laden didn’t. What his death means in geopolitical terms, time will tell. Experts will make their analysis; radicals will speak their minds; conspiracy theories will emerge. The fact is some people have the rare gift of making the world a better place for no longer existing in it. Osama Bin Laden was one of these people. His end is a promise, the hope for a future with more peace and tolerance.
And, to wrap up, art overcoming terror:
Paul McCartney and guests, closing the Concert for New York, which happened on October 20th, 2001, at Madison Square Garden, to raise the morale of new-yorkers.
The Rising, the song that Bruce Springsteen – maybe the most American of rockers – wrote about his post-9/11 feelings.