LIFE: Everybody else is doing it...
Yeah, Sept. 11, huh? Everybody and their mother is blogging about it or writing newspaper articles or magazine forums, so why not me?
Strange to think it's been only five years -- in some ways, this floating free-form paranoia and blue-red division and state of war feels like it's been simmering, boiling around for decades. Cold War, hot war, 9/11, on and on - I barely remember a time when there wasn't a Bush or Clinton in the White House now.
So that Tuesday morning five years ago I was in Truckee, Calif., where winter was just in the edges of the mornings, cold, clear and crisp. I was the editor of the weekly Sierra Sun and just starting to really hate my job there, for various reasons too political to get into now. I had fun and had a great little staff of reporters but was looking for a way out. Still, I was the editor of a newspaper for a town of 6,000 people and that was nifty enough, and one of the things I did as part of that was be a member of the Truckee Rotary club - community building, networking, that kind of thing. We met ungodly early on Tuesdays for greasy breakfasts and I was easily the youngest and poorest guy in the club. But they were nice folks, and when I walked into the meeting that Tuesday morning it seemed weird they were all standing around a TV screen at the senior center where we had our breakfasts. That's when I saw the first news reports, and in about 30 seconds realized I probably ought to be at the office. No eggs that morning.
The Sun came out every Thursday then, and so that meant Tuesday was pretty close to wrapping up the paper. Had to toss it all out and start over more or less reacting to "Terror Strikes Home" or whatever you wanted to call it. But like most people, we spent that Tuesday trying to figure out what had happened - huddled around the tiny fritzy office TV, trying in vain to get any Internet news sites to load, trying to get "local reactions," not quite sure what was going on a continent away except it looked very bad, very bad indeed.
Not a lot really affected our little mountain town except the airport closed, everyone was freaked out and for some bizarre reason Starbuck's Coffee closed for a couple days. But still for those few days we kind of felt like a real newspaper, reacting to national news and plugged in as some tiny piece of a much larger and baffling puzzle that was spinning out in our lives.
I've gone from two newspaper jobs since that day five years ago, and now in a weird limbo where I don't know what will happen next except it'll be in New Zealand before too much longer. Part of me, the cynic, tired of 9/11 long ago, the justifications to create more war and pain because of it, the increasing demagoguery coming from Washington over it, the sense that this battle, whatever you want to call it, will end up dribbling on for much longer than any of us would like, on into my kid and maybe even grandkids' lives. I guess naive as it is, I just wish people would be nicer and that religious obsession of any stripe didn't screw up so many lives.
I don't know if there's any one word that really sums up how I feel about 9/11 these days -- history doesn't make a whole lot of sense when you're in it, I guess.