Hard to describe the feeling.
Like half of the world, I am in shock. And I have to add my small part to the emotional soup. OK, reverse wind, chronology…
I was sitting in The Cod with Mark & Duncan when I found out. Duncan got a phone call from his wife… I could just hear his half of the conversation:
“TWO 747s? Nah, you’re having me on!”
“The World Trade Centre”
“What, one in each tower?”
“The Pentagon AS WELL??”
It all sounded like some kind of bizarre joke, and of course that was what we thought it was. Duncan got off the phone and filled in the gaps. To my mind, plane crash means accident, and you just don’t get accidents like that… planes hitting buildings? Nah, pilots aren’t that dumb. And even if one did it… why the hell would another, and another. No, that sort of thing doesn’t happen.
The idea of terrorist attack didn’t even cross my mind. But then, we asked the bar staff, and they said they had just heard it on the radio. From then on, it gradually gained a thin coating of reality, finally sealed in when we returned to the Leo Burnett offices and saw all 3 TV screens tuned to the news, a crowd of silent onlookers gathered in front of them watching the clouds of dust engulf New York. We were just in time to see the second tower collapse.
Even then it didn’t seem real. Something like that is so extreme, there are no rational ways to cope with it. We were watching a drama unfold, but like all dramas, this was just theatre (well, OK, Hollywood cinema – even further removed from everyday life). At one point it dawned on me that there would have been people in those buildings and aeroplanes – a hell of a lot of people, and that thousands of lives were in the process of being shattered, but still I couldn’t muster any real emotions. Total loss of affect, I think it’s called.
The rest of the day was wierd. It was hard to talk about anything else, but it was also hard to talk about the events themselves: there was so little information, all the news channels repeating the same phrases over and over, that conversation was also limited and circular. When I got home, I lay in bed listening to the Radio 4 news, but had to switch off. Too many panting, hysterical voices, too much human emotion and pain. I had already been feeling a bit wierd recently, uncertain about my future, emotions fluctuating, and now I just felt a huge oppresive unhappines with the world – like every enterprise ever is doomed to failure, civilisation is doomed. I found it very hard getting to sleep.
I woke up slightly less despondent, but still not feeling exactly great. I have had to spend the morning sucking up reports of the events, not so much to make sense of them, but just because not to do so would leave a great void. Blogdex has links to little that is not related to the attacks and their aftermath. The Guardian’s coverage crystallized everything for me, brought home the human tragedy and made it all more than a news story. And reading the story as it unfolded from posters to Metafilter makes events even more tangible and really sets off the goosebumps and the tears, with comments like
“My dad is across the street. He was talking to my mom after the first one on the cell phone. When the second hit, the phone went dead. shit shit shit shit shit shit”
I think I’m ready to face the world. I’m sadder, but at least my sadness now has a history.