One Day, and Forever Changed
How Did 9/11 Change Our World, Our Perceptions Of It, And of Each Other? How much influence has media had in how we now view the world?
I want to share something. It is a moment in my life that I cannot forget any more than I can forget my own name. I am sure most of us will remember where we were and what we were doing the moment ‘two planes collided with America’. This is where I was the day the world came to a screeching halt ..
“Sit down and watch your show while mommy talks to the school about your bus, Rebecca”.
“But Momma, there’s something wrong with the channel. My show’s not on!” Rebecca responded jumping up and down excitedly.
Frustrated with the school board’s refusal to bus the neighbourhood kids and my daughter’s lack of patience, I tuned the television to the kid’s channel in the living room. Only what I saw was not meant for a child’s eyes.
This was not a day the world would soon forget. The world was about to change …
“Momma, what’s that show?”
“Amy, take Becca outside and play in the backyard okay?”
“Auntie Amma, what’s wrong? Why are you covering your mouth?”
“Just do as I ask, Amy. Please!”
I hung up the receiver that I just realised was still in my hand, which was hanging limply at my side, and hastily called my fiancé’s cell phone. Marc had just left for the University where he taught only a few minutes ago. Hadn’t he? Everything was surreal.
The kids in the yard. The dogs barking in the distance. Did the birds really stop singing? The world moved in slow motion – horribly slow. My thoughts were plagued with images of a third World War. Was it happening? The uncertainty was terrifying.
The lines were jammed, but after a few tries, I was able to leave a message. I just sat down, too shaky to stand, to watch the horrors unfold before my eyes when the phone rang, startling me back to reality. “Hello?”
“Amma, I’m coming home. Stay where you are, and keep the kids in the house.”
“Marc, what’s going on? Have you heard about the World Trade Centre? They said it was a terrorist attack.”
“Listen honey, calm down. I’m already in my car. I have to call Sammy to make sure he’s okay and tell him not to board that plane. Everything will be fine.”
“Hurry Marc. Please. I’m scared!”
I called the kids inside and settled them in Rebecca’s room to watch a video. Amy, who was only eight, was sharp and sensed something was terribly wrong. Marc, who lived next door, arrived home a few minutes later. Tires screeching, he slammed his car door and ran to my house. I nodded toward the television, but couldn’t get a word to come out.
“I can’t reach Sammy. The lines are down in Mesopotamia. I’m sure he’s okay Amma. I’ll try again.”
We were never to hear the voice of our gentle friend again. We discovered later that he and some of his family members were killed in a roadside bombing, on their way to the airport – bound for Canada, and freedom. Sammy left Canada for Iraq weeks earlier, after hearing rumour of a terrorist cell causing a resurgence in his grandparent’s hometown. He vowed not to return to Nova Scotia without his family.
Sammy was born in Iraq. His parents moved to Canada when he was five years old. He was one of the kindest, gentlest souls I have ever known .. he was also one of my closest friends for almost two decades.
Life itself has changed since then, and so has the way we see it .. and each other, generally speaking. It was not a day that could have been usurped by the likes of Justin Beiber, Jessica Simpson, or even Lady Gaga. The sensationalism by the media lasted for months. We have seen countless people cash in on the tragedy with books and magazines and films. That in itself is a crime. Why does media insist on rubbing the insult into the noses of the general public?
Those who are old enough to have witnessed the attacks and were affected by it, have suffered trauma to one degree or another, and so have our views of the world. Everything from the way we board planes, to world affairs and peace, to the way we interact with each other, has been altered. That is what we wish to discuss here – unity, and what 9/11 has done to change that.
As children, we played, without a care in the world, making new friends without reservations. As adults in 2012, we have social media such as Twitter and Facebook to find social satisfaction. For some people, the Web is close enough. All the socializing they feel they require is in one package, in your hand or on your lap. There is a safe distance there; you can’t see me, you don’t know where or who I am. The drawback? You truly do not know with whom you are speaking. It could be anyone, therefore we keep the walls up to keep people out.
These days we need to be much more cautious than ever before. Social media is great for communication and staying in touch with loved ones, but can also be a dangerous tool, if used the wrong way, by the wrong people. This means anyone who could potentially harm us. This includes predators and con-artists. We simply need to watch our children carefully and use common sense.
Also dangerous is the effect social media can have on us and how it can alter our views on society. People tend to believe everything they read. Very dangerous! The media has one job to do, and that is to sell whatever they are feeding you. It is glorified and exaggerated for effectual purposes. Catchy headlines override the ‘real story’. Ratings override facts. That is a fact. There are the rarer media sources that will tell it like it is, but they are not as popular as those with images of bloodied, crying children on their covers.
“The lost innocence is caused by influencing of the mind by social media. We have developed opinions based on the ideas that are fed into our minds by images like Time Magazine, CNN, AOL, etc. [feed us]. You will find that they [people] have equally less interest in what the media portrays as a large issue.
Another point that social media faults us on is real, old-fashioned human contact. We have become a society that can avoid people with the stroke of a key. How are we supposed to overcome our fear of the unknown if we do not face it? Without real contact, we cannot learn to accept visually. In other words, we can avoid personal contact quite easily, and form opinions of others through what we hear and read in the media. Thus, we have a propensity to be judgemental of one another face to face. We are left with a biased opinion of others. This is more prevalent in the last ten years.
Not all media is guilty of tainting our thoughts and views of others. We have our own common sense to blame as well. If we believe all we hear and read, that is our choice. Just as choosing to find out the facts before leaping headlong into a hardened judgement is a choice. To pass judgement on someone we don’t know is to narrow our minds and close ourselves off to progression, denying ourselves the possibility of a harmonious existence. The fact is, the tensions where people are scared of their own shadow is built by the media, government and authorities that the ordinary man, woman or child on any street, anywhere in the world, couldn’t give a crap about.
We do have escalated racial and religious tension. However, how much of that is spun by the media – hearsay. The lost innocence is caused by influencing of the mind by social media. The challenge is that maybe if people became friends with at last one person perceived ‘to be the enemy’, maybe, just maybe, we will find some of that innocence returned. In this world, it is easy to ‘hate’ someone that is ‘inanimate’ to us. When that person becomes a brother, sister or friend, it is not so easy to ‘hate’. Ideology is formed by thing that we cannot touch and feel. Should we live our life on ideologies, or should we live our life on the person sitting across the table from us?
We need to live life in a tangible sense, not what could be. If we were always afraid of getting hit by a car, would we risk crossing the road to get to work? We cannot live on possibilities. To be afraid of making friends is what has happened to the world. The world needs to unite and face our fears together. To coin a phrase, ‘give peace a chance’. There is nothing wrong with using common sense and knowing the facts before passing judgement. You just never know who your next best friend may be. I would much rather have eye to eye contact with the person I am speaking to, as I would prefer to enjoy physical company over a social network. I am sure everyone would prefer to smile and shake the hand of a new friend, over being alone, and that is where the future is headed if we do not open our hearts and minds to the possibilities.
There was a time when walking the dog, we could look someone in the eye, smile and say hello. I don’t pass many people these days that will return the smile and hello any more. I find this especially true in the big Cities. Smaller communities have a somewhat friendlier feel, but not to the level it was 11 years ago. So we slowly draw away from those we pass on the street. They don’t say hello, so why should I? We should not have to think, consciously or unconsciously, about whom we pass on the street or whether we want to smile or not. Have you ever passed someone and thought, “they don’t look friendly”?
Why has all of this changed? We have been conditioned over the last ten years to be wary of people we do not know well. Chances are, the people we expose ourselves to every day mean us no harm, but we now possess an inborn fear of people in general. Have you ever held a door for someone just to get a ‘what do you want’ look?
Have you ever watched people sitting in an open area, and noticed how they look around nervously? Have you been on the subway and noticed how many people sit with crossed arms and legs, or appear hunched forward? People who look nervous sitting in the open? How many people have you heard say they will never fly again? How many people do you see every day who do not look you in the eye? We have become afraid of one another to a degree.
These things are signals of someone who has closed themselves off from everyone around them, and all of these things are typical of a post-traumatic experience. Not all of this is due to the mistrust 9/11 has caused, but a good deal of the way we see others and society can be attributed to the media. For those who lost loved ones because of the attacks, we understand their grief, but without realising it, most of us have been mourning the World as it was, pre- 9/11. We bear sorrow for those lives lost, and the loss of trust.
It is human to become misty-eyed remembering that day. Recalling the faces of those fleeing from the Trade Centre, the images of planes deliberately crashing into the buildings, and the choked voices of the reporters as they looked on, are all things not easily dismissed from our minds. There is so much more to it. Depression has sky-rocketed since then. Countless thousands have been directly affected by loss of loved one or friend, and millions more by the act and feeling of being violated.
What are the perceivable changes? Aside from stringent precautions at airports and required passports for Canadians entering the United States, we have changed the way we speak to and treat each other. We place barriers between ourselves and others. We treat others differently than we used to. We are more cautious about letting others into our lives. Worst of all, we have done this with a preconception of certain people of certain races and religions. Why do we judge all by the actions of one? In all races and religions there is good and evil. It has been a fact of life since the dawn of man.
Does the Bible not tell of distension and discourse? What about Homer’s ‘Iliad’? Here we have a written account of good and evil on two sides of the Trojan War. Homer furthers this by adding the battles their gods had amongst themselves. That is a mite far-fetched, but goes to show that the thought of the wind, sky, sea, and earth at odds with each other, was there, in the minds of the ancient people. This is discord. It goes back as far as recorded history. It will always exist, unless we change our misconceptions that people who are ‘different’ are our enemy. The Bronze Age, we believe, was an uncivilised era, but have we progressed any further as a society?
One person is as human as any other. Why do we feel the need to belittle or disregard others because of the actions of a few? What we choose to believe is up to us, but our future, and our children’s future is at stake if we do not learn to be accepting of one another. We used to teach our children to accept people no matter what. If you saw someone lying on the ground after being struck by a car, would you stop to help? What if that person was ‘different’ than you, would you still help? What if it was the other way around, and you were lying in the street, clinging to life? You wouldn’t care who came to lend a hand. This is just common sense, and we know that, but do we always use common sense?
Regardless who we are, we all bleed the same colour. We all feel pain, emotional and physical. Everyone loves, they care and hurt the same as anyone else. Priority is to feed their families, care for their homes, have fun, and do whatever they do. So why do we persist in putting up walls and not letting others in? Humanity has changed throughout the world. The same holds true with society, it has changed too. We were on a path of Universal acceptance, but all of that has changed. To reverse it, we need only try.
My last thought is this; We should never forget what happened that fateful day, but rather learn from our reactions, and for the sake of humanity, learn to forgive. By no means am I attempting to diminish the magnitude of the attacks, they were the most heinous of crimes in all our history. September 11/2001 will always be remembered by the thousands of lives lost, and the woeful heartache that followed. It was the day the World wept together. May we always stand together as a World, united against the evils that are wont to tear asunder.
What we have lost here is our ability to relate to and understand one another. However, my point is this; Stop for a second. Stop and listen to other people. Stop to talk to people. Sit down with them and listen to what they have to say.