11th September 2001
I visited New York at the tail-end of the old millenium in 1999. I arrived on the train into Penn Station from Philadelphia (The City of Brotherly Love) so rather than coming into the city from the outside, I started from the inside and came up from the bowels of the transport system to street level.
I was only there for a couple of nights and didn’t go anywhere to especially sightsee, other than the Guggenheim. I stayed in Manhattan, drank amazing martinis and admired the Art Deco Chrysler Building from the sidewalk, you can’t not; went to a jazz club in Bleecker Street and only bought two things: a pet-hair scraping device (crap) and Dr Dre’s 2001 album (superb)- just released in the USA and not available (pre-download invention) in the UK.
I didn’t see the Statue of Liberty or the World Trade Center, that’s what I’m coming around to.
It’s hard to think of anything meaningful to say about what happened in New York ten years ago. My mother and sister are over on the East Coast of America now, so I wonder what they will report about being over there on the anniversary.
It appeared to me, as I watched those planes fly into the twin towers in total disbelief from the 8th floor tower block in London that I lived in, that the world had just changed in some incomprehensible way. Had it? Or had our understanding of it changed? Our full attention dragged out of us in the most graphic and unimaginable way on that day.
It’s not a question I can really address. The images and horror that unfolded before us are not forgotten. Innocence is a human condition that seems to increase with helplessness. People trapped in preposterously high buildings that are about to collapse does not bear thinking about. I heard on the radio this week that no-one above where those planes hit the towers survived.
I had just found out I was pregnant with my eldest daughter when I watched the planes hit the twin towers. What kind of a world am I bringing a child into now I wondered. It’s not an exclusive question, I know; most parents must wonder the same. It’s not a question I can answer, and thankfully it’s not one the children have asked me to, yet.
Out of interest I asked the youngest yesterday what she thought about god – I am agnostic (hedging my bets), although on brave days I am an atheist. She said He keeps us safe. Which is nice to believe after all, for a child. I wonder if these omnipotent gods that religious people have fill the gap of parents like me with no answers.
Something like, in a playground disagreement: My Dad’s bigger than your Dad etc.
I’ve been thinking about what gives life meaning if not a god. I wish I wouldn’t, but as I have…
I think that there are probably as many meanings out there as there are people on the planet – about 8 billion? It’s not what gives life meaning as what gives an individual’s life their meaning and the idea that a couple of belief systems knocked up over the millenia with their accompanying doctrines that suggest the one-size fits all seems ludicrous to me. Of course it smacks of overweening arrogance and potential virtual insanity to attempt to find your own meanings amongst the trillions and zillions of possibilities, intentions and outcomes out there, but it might lead to less cataclysmic ideological conflicts in the meantime.