Half a world away from Ground Zero, London is on alert today – worried about whether we might be the targets of some kind of commemorative attack. But these are exaggerated fears. Alerted security forces probably make this the safest day to be in a large city since 9/11 itself. And in and around these tensions the same things go on in our lives. Daily things. Little things. Like me picking up my iPod from the repair shop. Like having been stuck on the bus for hours this morning. Like how beautiful the sky looks today. Like how I overslept because I was loath to wake from a longing but desperate dream and how it’s stayed with me all day. And I’m ashamed because these are the things that have been in my mind. And not the world-breaking, heart-shattering weirdness of a year ago today…
For obvious reasons it’s difficult to know what to write about. I thought about (belatedly) making the whole site monochrome, as Yahoo has done. I thought about long pieces of writing about Infoshare or maybe writing about where I was – what I was thinking – on that early afternoon last September. Except that my first reactions when I heard about the planes was one of complete disbelief – humour even. Who knew that the plane was a passenger jet and not a tiny one-man prop plane? Who knew (who wasn’t near a television) that it was a terrorist attack? Who knew so many people would die… I don’t want to think about that again.
I’ve thought about what I should write all day (and for much of yesterday as well). I can’t think of a single thing that I could convey a thousandth of what needs to be said. Everything would be gestural at best – facile, empty. Everything would be inelegant – although maybe that’s the only kind of thing that would make any sense today anyway. Maybe our thoughts should be large and savage and potent and overwhelming. Maybe they should be as large as they can while there’s time for them to be so, before we have to get on with the business of living in the world again.
The only thing I can think of that comes close to being meaningful is a quote from the novel of a much wiser man than I. In Kurt Vonnegut’s Timequake a world suffers a calamity and no one knows how to deal with life when it’s over. A man walks around telling people, “You were sick, but now you’re well again, and there’s work to be done”. There’s a sentiment to take with you. Look around you now. Think about the world in which we live. And think about the sense of closeted safeness that most of the Western world felt one year and one day ago. And say it with me now, to yourself and to the regimes and leaders all over the world from London and the US, from Afghanistan to Iraq, “You were sick, but now you’re well again, and there’s work to be done”.