Ripple effect

I had intentions to write about something other than Sept. 11 for this blog post. I kid you not, I spent nearly my entire Thursday trying to write a column about it (it’s on page 17, since with the web version we can’t link to individual pages), which involved essentially writing a little bit, reading some related links, deleting what I had written and trying again, reading some more links, deleting what I had written…

First of all, I can’t believe how much is out there. Yes, I know it’s the 10th anniversary, and one of the pieces that finally got me to focus wasn’t a specific Sept. 11 piece, but rather about the love-hate relationship that journalists have with anniversaries.

This anniversary is a little bit different though, because unlike Elvis dying or JFK being shot (other events where everyone remembers where they were at that moment) it seriously affected the function of the day-to-day world, and its security.

So despite the sheer quantity of anniversary pieces that are out there, it’s pretty interesting to read them all, because they all manage to tell a different story. (Though I must admit, at this point, when I see another one come across my Twitter feed, I first think, “Another one?” before I click on it to read.)

As a journalist, I’m interested to see the way that other journalists have put together multimedia packages. (I also think not only was Portraits of Grief a huge undertaking by the New York Times — you can read the back story here — but that they went back and did Portraits Redrawn — I guess that’s why they’re the New York Times.)

But I also think I keep clicking on links because I can understand a lot more now — I was 12 when it happened.
(Tangent: I was having a conversation with a friend, and when I mentioned this, he looks at me and goes, ‘What?’ He remembered crowding around the portable TVs in MacEwan Hall at the University of Calgary, and I guess the whole irony of this is that because of this conversation, we all — members of the editorial board we worked on together — realized that while I may have been the boss of the editorial board last year, I was the third youngest on the board; there were about 14 of us.)

I had seen the TV images before I went to school that morning, but the family I was supposed to be carpooling with was late and I was panicked about being late. (Remember, I’m 12.) I heard people talking about it in the halls while I was trying to get to class, but I still wasn’t thinking much about it. Then, in fourth period, the principal came on the intercom. Up to this point, I don’t think we had talked about it much in class, I didn’t know anything else had happened other than the first images I had seen on the TV with my mom that morning.

I don’t remember exactly what the principal said, but I remember what she prefaced it with, and that’s when I understood that what had happened was big. I went to a French immersion school, and as a late French immersion, we were just starting to learn the language, but that was just more of an excuse to always speak in French, not less reason to. So all the intercom announcements, lessons, everything, were in French, never English.

What the principal said at first?

“I’m going to say this in English, so that everyone understands.”

Like I said, 10 years later, it’s interesting to see exactly how much I understand. Todd Babiak from the Edmonton Journal wrote a long piece on it, and I didn’t read all of it (I’ve read a lot. Do you blame me for skimming?) but the line that stuck out to me was when he wrote, “In 2001, there was no Facebook, no Twitter, no iPhones. Most of what we read was printed on paper.”

I have Facebook, Twitter, and an iPhone. Respectively, they were acquired four and a half years, eight months and nine months ago. And already they feel ubiquitous. But “most of what we read was printed on paper”? It’s a true statement, but it feels so strange.

10 years later, I’m 10 years older and supposedly 10 years wiser. Crazy to see exactly how much I understand.


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