Monday, September 11, 2006

Today is September 11th

I look back across the five years, and I see a nineteen year old girl on her way to a class. She has no idea that her world is about to change, no idea that the friend who is pulling her aside asking her urgently "Have you heard?" is about to tell her something that will alter the course of her life forever. She doesn't read the newspapers yet--but she will. She's never heard of the Taliban, or al-Qaida, but soon the words will become familiar. She's never spoken to someone of the Muslim faith, or been the minority in a group of people. She will. I look back at that nineteen year old, and I have to wonder how much of the Me sitting here is the natural process of growing up. Or how much of my personality today was shaped by the rude awakening of five years ago? Would I be as interested in politics, or have such a passion for different world views? The papers say that September 11th defines my generation. I'll agree with that and go one further, that it deliniates the moment when I grew up and realised there was a big ol' world out there.

Five years ago the opening to my journal entry of that night started out simply "I'm scared." It was the fear of uncertainty, not for any physical reasons, but the fear of what will happen next, of loneliness. These emotions wax and wane, but they are no longer unfamiliar.

"It is some small comfort that we can look back and draw parallels between the past & today's problems, which leads to the idea that we are not the first to feel frightened, angry and confused and thta we shall not be the last. We may not be united by religion, democracy, politics, but we are all one in our anger & frustration. Once we recognise that it is our FEAR that unites us, then perhaps we can start to come together, even if it is only as fearful children, clutching each other in the dark." (Aug 12)

I wrote this on the front of a Tube map after reading yet another book about the Napoleonic wars, something that nineteen year old would never do. It's easy for me to look at her and smile at her naievety and overwhelming optimism, but I wonder if she would see the same thing about me. The world is smaller now, yes, but it is also more familiar. In no way am I trying to co-opt the pain some felt that day, only to say that it laid a dividing line across my life that I can look back and see to this day.

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