Leading up to the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks I have been thinking about what I remember about that day. It has often been said that 9/11 is among a handful of major events that divide time into “before” and “after”, an event for which everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing when it happened. But already the details are becoming fuzzy for me.
September 2001 was the start of my first year at the University of Alberta. I’m not sure why I thought it was a good idea, but I had a lot of early classes that year. On that particular Tuesday, I had a computer lab at 8am. I had arranged to get a ride to campus with my girlfriend at the time. My Grandma, who I lived with, would drop me off at my girlfriend’s house and her mom would drop us off at the university on her way to work. I remember we were heading north on 50th street just past Whitemud Drive when we first heard on the radio about the two planes crashing into the World Trade Center. I don’t remember the exact time, but it couldn’t have been long after the second plane crashed into the south tower. For some reason, I seem to recall the person on the radio talking about “two small planes”.
By the time I got to my computer lab, it was obvious that they were not small planes and that something big was happening. I don’t remember doing any work in that particular lab, but I do remember sitting toward the back of the room, trying to find out more online. I distinctly remember thinking that the Internet seemed unusually slow that morning. I was probably trying to load CNN or the New York Times – it’s funny to think about it now and realize that Google News didn’t yet exist, not to mention Twitter, Facebook, or any of the other places I frequent for news today.
Not long after that lab, I met up with my girlfriend and we went back to her house. We pretty much sat in front of the TV for the rest of the day, like most people I suspect. I went back to my Grandma’s house around dinner time, and I remember she was doing some painting. I remember thinking it was odd that she wasn’t watching TV, but I suppose by that time the news was starting to get repetitive. It would take days, weeks, and months before we learned more about what happened.
And that’s about all I remember. It’s more than I remember about most other days ten years ago, but somehow less than I think I should remember, if that makes sense. I often wonder if I’d remember more or less if I had tweeted and blogged about it like I would today (passive vs. active media use).
Two years ago, Sharon and I went to Washington, DC on vacation. One of our stops was Newseum. They had a 9/11 exhibit featuring the September 12, 2001 front pages of newspapers from all around the world. They have a similar collection from today.