Today marks one of the epochal moments during my lifetime. Moments like the one connected to today’s date become ones we’ll likely remember for all our days: where we were, what we were doing, and most probably what we were thinking at the time. For me in my lifetime, three moments qualify: JFK’s assassination, landing on the moon, and 9/11.
I was a mere child of 10 for the first, yet I still have crystal clear memories of that November day. Odd that at such a point of intense stimulation, the mind locks in the minutia, intent on engraving in granite-like certainty. I clearly had no faculty to comprehend the political ramifications, but ironically enough I was living in Cuba at the time (Guantanamo Bay to be exact), and those up on their history know the Castro-Kennedy issues during the early ’60s. I was in my classroom and remember the dire announcement over the speaker, and the aftermath of a room of 10-year-olds falling silent with the only the soft sobbing of our teacher disturbing the silence. This epochal moment in my experience was but a snapshot of time frozen. I don’t recall much of the aftermath the next day, week or month, particularly whether my parents reacted or any sensation that anything around me changed.
The second event opened a wide door into technological imagination and wonders, and I believe from the moment I watched the grainy footage of Neil Armstrong’s “one step for mankind” I fell to technology’s gravitational pull. I wonder how many wanna-be astronauts that moment spawned in America’s youth, but again, another moment indelibly etched in my consciousness.
The last, in my mind and likely other’s, is the most insidious of my trio. We as a nation felt the full anxiety and fear of being invaded, a sensation foreign to American living memory. And while there was ultimately no widespread invasion, at least in the physical sense, I believe all us wondered if our building was next, our town, our beloveds. Of the three, 9/11 was an epochal moment in the true sense of the word. From that day forward our country began a slow-paced decline we continue to see eroding away to this day. Not a decline in terms of reduction, but one of unwanted change and unacceptable yet undeniable consequences.
We’ve lost more things since that day than any country and its people should have to endure: personal freedoms, fiscal responsibility from our leaders, common sense in military actions, world respect, sanity, religious tolerance, outrage over American deaths in foreign lands (why do the deaths have to be on our soil before we have collective rage?), and the hope that our children will have / see a better world than we did. One could argue some aspects of this list existed before 9/11, and go no further back than the ’60s Vietnam conflict, demonstrations, and civil unrest for an example. But not quite on the scale that 9/11 began…or is it? I have difficulties sensing whether the truth of all this exists in the reality of the facts presented. The media of the last decade has so bombarded the collective consciousness that much of what seems real may indeed have been and continue to be manufactured to purpose.
Marshall McLuhan once said, “All media exist to invest our lives with artificial perceptions and arbitrary values.” He was, of course, speaking more towards the hijacking of our sensibilities for the greater cause of advertising and ensuing greed…or was he? In a slight blur of meaning, one could say the media can be terroristic based on the outcome it manifests. In our modern age it seems unfairly challenging to separate facts from fiction, to find the truth written between the lines of news, and to reach a personal understanding that makes sense of what’s happening in the world.
So on this national day of significance, I’m going to suspend the doubts and instead choose to embrace the remembrance of those Americans who lost their lives, their loved ones who suffer, and the continued hope that sanity will, at some point, return to the world, and peace-love-harmony will have a chance to become our new reality.