MITCHELL’S MUSINGS: A sombre anniversary

I certainly remember where I was when it happened.

I certainly remember where I was when it happened. But I’m sure that’s the case for anyone over a certain age 10 years ago today.

My wife had trouble sleeping that morning and was up watching television early on Sept. 11, 2001, when she called out to me and said something like “I think you should get up and take a look at this.”

All the channels had switched to live coverage of a plane flying into one of the towers at the World Trade Center in New York City.

At first it was very confusing. Was this an accident? How could it be an accident?

And soon, fear gripped a continent as it became increasingly obvious it was no accident as a second plane slammed into the other tower and reports came in of similar incidents in Washington, D.C.

As the enormity of the event escalated exponentially right before our eyes, anxiety increased and fear spread like wildfire.

How many other planes were there? Is some country or some group of madmen trying to take over control of the United States? Is this the beginning of World War III?

Why did this happen? How could this happen?

Meanwhile it was announced that all air traffic in North America had been grounded and it began to dawn on everyone how huge this moment in modern history was going to be.

I began to get restless as the coverage continued and the kids woke up and they started witnessing this tragedy and its aftermath and if I couldn’t make sense of it all how could they possibly deal with it? Not to mention if it was scaring me watching the mayhem what kind of effect was it having on them?

(Four months later when we wanted to take a family trip to Maui our seven-year-old was refusing to go as there was no way he was getting on a plane ever again after what he saw on that day and the reoccurring onslaught of news coverage that was hard to keep him away from. I don’t know if Dr. Phil would approve but it got so bad we finally took him to the doctor and got the medical professional, who was briefed, to tell him it was safe to fly once again. It worked.)

There was a real sense in the early going that the world that we woke up to every day and took for granted was rapidly spinning out of control.

I remember steering the kids away from the TV and trying to get on with our day. You know how if you do normal, routine things, maybe you could regain that sense of reality again.

I remember it was a Tuesday and I was glad to take out the garbage for once.

But even that turned surreal because as I placed the refuse on the curb I looked up and there was a jet flying high overhead leaving a white trail in the beautiful blue sky.

Sudden impact.

I pondered that the plane would soon be ordered out of the sky for security reasons and thought about the magnitude of such an exercise and what a small, interconnected, insecure world we live in where a terrorist attack thousands of miles away can inflict, almost instantly, so much mayhem worldwide.

And the impact continues today after billions of dollars spent on security at airports, so many lives lost in the original and subsequent attacks and then in Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention the price we pay in personal privacy and freedoms in the continuing war on terrorism.

On this sombre anniversary it’s worth considering whether the war on terrorism is working or not, although several top terrorist leaders have been eliminated, including No. 1.

However there’s no going back and there’s no way we’ll ever feel as safe as we did on the day before Sept. 11, 2011.

As we take a moment today to reflect and mourn the loss of life of the innocent victims, the heroic firefighters and emergency personnel and so many others directly involved and the families they left behind, we should also keep something else in mind.

Such an unthinkable, tragic event also took a toll on all who witnessed it and live in a world still coming to grips with the meaning of its impact.

As we pass through security checks at the airport, or listen to the news about heightened terror threats, or read about even more terrorist attacks throughout the rest of the world, we do so with less detachment, more empathy, more diligence and an absence of innocence.

Glenn Mitchell is the managing editor of The Morning Star