9/11: Ten Years Out, It Still Hurts

911 JPEGThis is what I was writing about 10 years ago.

It is a new world.  And according to President George W. Bush its war in the 21st century.  And for the life of me, I don’t know what is going to happen.

And this is the way I ended it.

On January 2, 2000, I boarded a plane in Toronto headed to Newark, New Jersey.  The flight was a bit rough, and I welcomed the impending descent toward the airport.  As we descended toward the airport, the sight out the left hand side of the aircraft overwhelmed me.  There it was, the New York City skyline, shimmering in the late afternoon of early winter.  The World Trade Centre Buildings were beautiful to behold, but never again, never again.  It is war now and we’re never going back to the way it used to be.

In many ways it is almost hard to believe that 10 years has passed since that terrible day when 4 commercial airlines were hijacked, 3 crashing into buildings and one into a farm field in rural Pennsylvania.  I remember it well, just like everybody of my generation.  I was traveling to the Outdoor Farm show in Woodstock Ontario that morning.  I heard somebody say something that Toronto will be shut down by the end of the day.  Then my cell phone rang on the bus in the parking lot of the Outdoor Farm show.  My father-in-law was frantic telling me about the unfolding events in New York and Washington.  10 years out, it’s almost like science fiction.

I have never felt as uneven in my life as I did that day.  All my life I had been a student of history.  I have always watched the old war documentaries.  I always soaked up history books and debated many historical issues of the day.  However on September 11, 2001 I felt like I was part of history.  I left the Woodstock Farm show shortly after I arrived because I suspected that Toronto might be hit as well sending refugees onto the 401.  So I wanted to get back home to take care of my family.  There wasn’t a plane in the sky.  Simply put, I didn’t know what was happening.

In the intervening 10 years we got George W. Bush’s wars.  It was very evident that day that the Americans were going to go to war against somebody.  I remember one comment at the Outdoor Farm show before I left; the Americans are trying to figure out whom they should bomb first!  It was a chilling comment as I walked out of the gates.  Little did I know then there would be a war in Afghanistan and a subsequent war in Iraq.

It was a terrible day.  When I got home I turned on the television and watched the horror, which was 9/11.  How this plot could have been carried out was beyond my comprehension.  Looking back, the world of aviation was so different then.  10 years hence we continue to pay for the sins of that day.

One of the unfortunate casualties of the 9/11 attacks was the thickening of the Canadian US border. Before that, the Canadian US border was a bit of a speed bump when you’d pass through.  8 weeks after 9/11 I crossed into Detroit and was met by 4 customs officers putting mirrors on long poles under my car. Later that day in Toledo Ohio, F-16 fighter planes flew overhead at low altitudes.  It was a very nervous time.

In 2011 it’s different now.  Osama bin Laden is dead.  The people that perpetrated those crimes have mostly been chased down and killed or imprisoned.  There has been tremendous collateral damage and lost lives to avenge the heinous act of 9/11.  Despite that, you might argue the world is a safer place now than the tinderbox it was in the intervening weeks after that terrible day.

In the 10 years since 9/11 I have traveled around the world at least a couple times.  At each juncture of my journey, some which was deep within the Muslim world you could clearly see how 911 had changed everything.  That Canadian flag which had always been a badge of honor, I conveniently tucked away.  I didn’t want to take the chance to advertise where I was from.

It’s important this week to remember these things.  Remember how your combine radio crackled with dire warnings after that day.  Just remember.  I was right about one thing.  It would never go back to the way it used to be.