Three thousand, six hundred fifty days, more or less,depending on leap years – since the end of the 20th century. Oh, I know, calendar-wise, only a year or two off. But we don’t count strictly by the calendar. Afterwards, we count by events. Myself, I have the feeling that the 19th century didn’t truly end for good and all until 1914. That’s when the 20th century began, in the muddy trenches of WW1. All the previous comfortable understandings and optimistic assumptions of the earlier world were shattered right along with three monarchial dynasties, over the course of four years. When it was over, the world of the time before seemed impossibly far removed, to those who could remember it – a number which, as the decades passed, became steadily fewer, until that old world was entirely the stuff of books, paintings and relics, rather than true human recollections. We eventually adjusted and accepted the new reality of things. The old way, and the shattering events in which it passed – became a date on a monument, a paragraph in a history text, a book on the shelf.
Being that humans are mostly optimistic and pretty adaptable, we patched together some new understandings and assumptions, which worked pretty well – or at least we became accustomed to them . . . until the 20th century ended on a glorious autumn morning, ten years ago. One day. And then we had to become accustomed to the new reality. More than three thousand dead, a hole in the New York skyline that will never be filled in again – the ghosts of twin silvery towers showing up in the backgrounds of movies, now and again, drawing your sudden attention with a catch at the heart and memory.
And three thousand-something men and women who went off to work one morning, families who took a vacation, catching an early morning airplane flight, firefighters going on shift, everyone living out those thousands of petty daily routines, most of them probably quite boring. I am certain that practically every one of those who became casualties on that morning – a name and a face on a makeshift poster, a black-framed picture on the mantel or in the obituary pages – were looking forward to the end of the workday, the end of their journey – to coming home for a good dinner, wrapping up that business trip and getting on with that portion of our life that is ours, and belongs to us and our families and loved ones alone.
But they were never allowed that luxury, of having a tonight, a tomorrow. Those lives which they might have had, would have – were brutally wrenched from them, in an organized act of terrorism, wrenched from them in fire and horror and blood, while the rest of us watched or listened – watched in person, on television, or were glued to a radio – ten years ago today.
Ten years. Time enough for children to grow to middle-school age, never remembering that time before, barely recollecting as children do, the loss of a father or mother, who worked in a department in the outer ring of the Pentagon, or in an office on a high floor of the World Trade center. A foreign country to them, is that place, where once you could go into the airport terminal and go all the way to the gate to meet an arriving friend . . . and for travelers not to have to take off their shoes to go through security. Or even have to go through security, come to think on it. A world where one could have no reaction but idle curiosity upon noticing a woman in full black burka, or a nervous-appearing man of Middle-eastern appearance, taking pictures of an otherwise undistinguished bridge or power station. A world where a familiarity with the dictates of the Koran and the Hadith, the maunderings of Sayyid Qutb as regards America and the workings of a desert tribal autocracy are an eccentric interest and hobby – not a professional necessity.
Ten years. The world that was passes from memory, and we have the brutal world of ‘now.’ As an amateur historian, one of my own comforts on this anniversary is that – it was always like this. We will survive, we will live in a world that is made new and eternally renewed by events, events that will eventually fade . . .
But today, we remember. We will always remember.
My past anniversary posts at The Daily Brief:
I didn’t write a specialized post for 2009, and last year I only reposted some music videos.
6 thoughts on “3,650 Days”
Thank you, Sgt. Mom. Once again you get it right.
The world changed on that day. We adjusted, but those who think the hard jihad of the sword is going to bring their dreamed-for caliphate will learn otherwise or be killed trying. And then those who try for the soft jihad of the law are starting to notice they haven’t been fooling anyone.
Some of us acknowledge that the world changed that day while others don’t.
I was able to visit Manhattan for the first time in my life 5 years ago – and you cannot imagine the size of that site until you see it first hand – huge.
The worst of it was hidden from us.
We were attacked that day, just as surely as we were attacked at Pearl Harbor. PLEASE don’t let the talking heads and mush minded politicians morph our response to the brutality of that day into some sort of community service observance.
And BUILD something there already. As Mark Steyn has noted, it is a national embarrassment that a nation as strong and resilient as America has left a hole in the ground for ten years.
“… a nation as strong and resilient as America has left a hole in the ground for ten years.”
The disease of bureaucracy that is choking us to death has no better exemplar than the non-monument at Ground Zero, after ten whole years.
Your point about the twentieth century beginning in the trenches that arose from Sarajevo is an interesting one that I have believed for some time….. except that I would back it up a bit.
It may be that I am a romantic and it’s because the story is near and dear to my heart, but I have always thought that pivot of the centuries, and of civilization, took place two years earlier, on April 15th, 1912 in the middle of the North Atlantic (midway between Europe and America, the tent poles of the 20th century.)
The sinking of the Titanic was a catastrophic culmination of three decades of incredible technological advances, with the telephone, electricity as a commodity, lighting, automobiles, and airplanes, just for starters, all going from non-existent to fundamental parts of life and the economy. The Titanic, encompassing all those technologies (except aero) and more, was the zenith of all of that, collected into one glamorous package, and loaded with the business and social elites who made it all happen…. and it turned on them all with a completely unforseen and unbelievably murderous vengeance.
A time of extraordinary complacence and stability was delivered a a body blow that rocked Western Civilization to the core, and, it may be utterly unrelated, but it was pretty much just after that event that the rumblings of disequilibrium began in Europe…. and off Century 20 was with a roar.
I have often thought that ‘From Southampton to Sarajevo’ would make a great book, one which I am incapable of writing, unfortunately.
Oh, yes – Andrew, the sinking of the Titanic could be seen as the first robin of the 20th century, shattering all the verities of the 19th century world — but I think the vast bulk of people at the time experienced the sinking almost vicariously. It was a media event. WWI, on the other hand; the changes that it brought would hit more personally, and in all kinds of ways. Women in Britain got the vote, the reduced-servant household became more the norm, skirts were shorter, music more discordanent, and “honor, God and country” – in the face of the huge death toll, such a mainstream Victorian-era understanding of national patriotism was deeply shaken at a personal level.
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