As sometimes happens, a moment grabbed me unexpectedly today. I saw the sales person in the jewellery shop write the date on my claim slip… 9/9/11. The date 9/11 has been etched into all of our psyches for 10 years now. It has become an iconic date to most of the world, much as ‘the Ides of March’ or ‘D-Day’ or any number of other famous events inextricably linked with their dates. When I saw the date written down in that moment came a flood of feelings and memories. Eleven years ago, it was just a date, but today it weighed heavily with unspeakable significance. For us, in Australia, the date of 9/11 (the eleventh of September) would actually be written 11/9, because we write the day before the month, rather than the month before the day, as Americans do.
But I know this doesn’t matter, an icon transcends its literal meaning. 9/11 has come to mean a day of loss of ‘innocence’, the beginning of the era of terrorism, the making of heroes, the unbearable sorrow of families and friends, a city, a country and a world. So, over much of the world, we pay homage to that day by saying ‘9/11’, and we all know the day of which we speak. To say it was tragic is an understatement, and to define the tragedy is almost impossible. But it occurs to me it has also taken on a ‘poetic’ quality that parallels the horror with the triumph of the human spirit. Had this happened in most other countries in the world it would not have been so well documented and analysed. But that it happened to the most powerful country in the world has grabbed our attention like few things have. Books and interviews and file footage continue to come before us. People speak from the perspective of a decade after the fact, with tears and wisdom and sadness that few of us can imagine experiencing. But all of us have been touched in one way or another. I had stood atop those towers, many years ago, looking out of ‘Windows on the World’ and sipping cocktails with colleagues. I had stood in that place that is no more.
As a sentient being I try to honour all forms of life experience. That day unfolded like nothing I had ever imagined. I wondered, like many, if the world was coming to an end. There was a moment I stood outside the grocery store in the shopping centre, and could have heard a pin drop. It was eerie and sombre, and even the check out person had spoken quietly, shaking her head at the thought and I felt shaky and there were tears in my eyes. There have been other days that are forever etched in my mind, as for many people. Most recently I had a few more, closer to home. For me, they are all moments of heroic poetry, that we are a living part of, and through which we can plumb the depths of ourselves. Without the tragedy, how would there come the moments of triumph?