Since the beginning of the month our eyes, our ears and our hearts have been invited to turn to New York City in preparation for the ten year anniversary of three numbers and a forward slash that can arguably claim to be one of the greatest visual and audible icons of the twenty-first century. The wealth of information that is stored on the web and press pages across the globe – from the minute-to-minute eyewitness accounts, to the intimate memories of those who were murdered, to the political data that form every fact, as well as fuel any conspiracy - is as daunting to digest as the time that has past since the world that I had known changed overnight on 11th September 2001.
As the saying goes, you will never forget where you were and what you were doing. It was a Tuesday afternoon and I was playing a game of inter-house rugby at secondary school when the first plane hit WTC 1 – by the time I got back to my house the rumours that a small private plane had crashed into a skyscraper were rectified by BBC’s breaking news coverage in our TV room that would normally have been blaring out MTV – it was quiet and the sight of both towers, hit by commercial jets and now burning like gigantic candle sticks, was nothing but amazing. No Hollywood film could recreate these scenes of reality that were so unfamiliar to our eye, this unimaginable, this degree of perversion. As the evening wore on, I noticed the silence around school and the silence in the sky – the westerly flight path to America from Heathrow that passed over the campus was bare due to the hundreds of planes that had been grounded. What proceeded was to be a new way of life instilled with insecurity and fear. I can still just about remember the days when smoking was allowed on planes; when I was able to pay a visit to the cockpit with my parents when we flew to America, the controls all lit up in technicolor and the pilot's view of the horizon so clear and bright. I remember sitting in the jump seat of a very full flight to London from Europe one summer - just the pilots and I - I will never forget that landing, a sight very few people witness or even have a peak at through the doors of the cockpit that are now sealed and protected – all moments in my early lifetime practically inconceivable today. I remember when security wherever you are didn't use to take the extreme precautions that are now standard procedure; when awareness towards another human being’s appearance and manner – and religion - was less ruthless of stereotype, and if you are a dark skinned Italian who had not shaved before going through airport security would not result in a full pat down and even one time, an invite into a full body RapiScan (one of many products created for a post-9/11 world).
Reflecting Absence by Michael Arad at the 9/11 National Memorial
The attacks on the United States of America were social and cultural attacks that have had global consequences affecting the everyday that has adopted a subconscious paranoia for generations past and where “war on terror” slips off the tongue as easily as the daily death count of civilians and soldiers in the war-torn Middle East witnessed by children of the new Millennium.
This weekend the people of New York will reminisce beyond the landmark date, on what will be yet another year since their city was violently attacked, while the rest of the world dissects the past decade from the capturing and death of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and Osama Bin Laden this year; questions will be asked about capitalism and religion and of the lessons that have been learned by both the East and West, if any, through a plethora of social media outlets that were not even around in 2001 – a sign of the times that may have magnified a greater real-time hysteria that was so well documented during this year’s horrific Japan tsunami.
What is certain is the fact New York will not allow to be defined by the terrorism on 9/11, it’s heart far from broken, hurt and still healing, but not broken.
Reflecting Absence by Michael Arad will be officially inaugurated on 11th September at the the 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero, Manhattan, New York City.
In London, After 9/11 – an eight metre tall sculpture fashioned from steel girders from the World Trade Centre wreckage - by artist and New York native, Miya Ando has been installed in ‘The American Ground’ of Battersea Park, Wandsworth, South London.