Yesterday was the fifth anniversary of when I moved into my current apartment; my “box in the sky.”
The next morning, I was listening to the radio while getting ready for class at Ryerson. I remember Andy Barrie becoming distracted at one point, and then explaining that he was watching television images of a plane that had crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers.
Having no TV, I decided to walk to Ryerson early to see this on the cafeteria TV. When I arrived, the image on the screen made no sense. I’d been picturing the damage of a small plane in one tower, but now both towers had been transformed into massive smoke stacks.
I didn’t know what to make of it, and don’t know how long I sat there before walking over to class. What I do remember is that by that point there was only one tower left. As our class entered the TV studio (our classroom — we were television students), we greeted each other awkwardly. “Everyone’s turned on a TV today, right?” Some of us hadn’t seen each other all summer, but “good to see you” wasn’t working today.
For the first — hour? few hours? — of class we watched Newsworld on two screens that had been wheeled in by the professors. When the second tower collapsed and Peter Mansbridge emphasized that these were live images, not a replay of the first tower falling, I was sure he’d made a mistake. I remember thinking, “if I saw this in a movie, I’d roll my eyes at how unrealistic it was.”
I wanted to write about those next few days, weeks, and months, but I never did until now. I’d wanted to record all the little details, only some of which I remember: the sign on the now-out-of-business NYC Store on Yonge Street that said “closed due to pesky terrorist kids,” the rumours that a plane was headed for Toronto, how many weeks past before I saw another TV commercial, the American flag network bugs that lasted for months.
I hold in my head the false choice between mourning the dead and lamenting what’s been done in their name since. “With us or with the terrorists” also continues to be a false choice. I have nothing new or wise to say on this fifth anniversary.
Instead, I’ve tried to find some comfort in another anniversary. One hundred years ago today, Mahatma Gandhi began his non-violence movement, and helped to change the world forever. All I can say is, we could really use another Gandhi right about now.