September 11th, 2001 was a tragic day for a great many people. Myself, being unemployed at the time, I spent the entire day in front of the TV and talking to friends over the Internet. For some random reason that morning, I’d turned on the TV and it was on CNN. I think there had been some special news report or something I’d been watching before bed the night before. I was actually watching when the first reports of something hitting the World Trade Center came in, and I stayed there all day. I don’t think I even took a break for food until dinner that night.
As tragic as that day was, however, it was the next day, September 12th, when everything sunk in, when the ripples of the event started to be felt, when the world became a different place than it had been just two days before. Terrorism, of course, was not new. People had been dealing with attacks like that, though not in the same scope, for a very long time. Suicide bombers in cafés and other public places were old hat in some parts of the world. Even hijackings and blowing up planes was something that had, to some degree, become accepted as a possibility. The largest ripple coming from the September 11th attack was simply that we now lived in a world where that could happen. A world where someone can fly a plane into a building, not on accident, not a small plane as a personal act of suicide, but a large passenger flight turned in to a weapon that can bring down a building and kill thousands. On September 10th, it was unthinkable by most people. On the 11th, it happened. On the 12th, it was added to the list of possibilities, or if it had already been there, its rank on the list of probabilities rose. It went from being some 1-in-a-million things to an event that happened, and now proven effective an event that would be planned again.
One of the tracks at Dragon*Con is called Apocalypse Rising. It is a very odd track compared to many of the other fandom based tracks like Star Wars and Star Trek and the Whedon Universe because it lives in two worlds. On one side you have zombies and an array of Sci-Fi movies and books, and people talk about their favorite “end of the world” and they wear Mad Max costumes and pretend to hunt zombies. On the other side, you have panels with people who are well versed in the practical procedures of surviving disasters talking about the things you can do, the things you should do. It is in the second half where discussions about the inevitability of larger events happen. We talk about how the September 11th event was a shock to the United States and most of the world, and about how technology advances, and arms caches of fallen regimes make their way into the market, and how once upon a time people used to discuss about the remote possibility that a nuclear weapon or other massively destructive thing might one day be unleashed on a city in the US or the UK, and how events like sarin gas being released on a Tokyo subway and September 11th and more have turned that remote possibility into an eventuality, about how we’ve stopped talking about “if” something will happen but “when” it will happen. And it all reminds me of a line from Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club, “On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.”
Somber thoughts for a sunny Saturday, I know, but I can’t help it. Its on my mind and it had to come out somewhere. On a brighter note, I’m alive, I’m in love, and while I may not have everything that I want, I want everything that I have, and that’s a pretty nice place to be.
It has been eight years since that day, and other lengths of time from other tragic days. To those that we’ve lost, I wish them rest. To those they’ve left behind, I wish them restoration. And hopefully “when” will be a very long way off.