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september 11th, 10 years later
looking back, looking ahead
by jason gilmore (@JasonGilmore77)

By the time you read this, for better or worse, the 10th anniversary (what is a synonym for "anniversary" that doesn't sound so peppy?) of the September 11th attacks will have passed. All of the commemorations and terrifying flashback footage and heartfelt commercials will be done and we'll be back to our daily reality, whatever that may be.

We are different in so many ways since 2001, in ways that connect to September 11th, and in ways that don't. The technological advances we've achieved in that decade have been phenomenal, and yet, I don't know that we're smarter as a collective. 

I can't speak on how New York City has evolved since then; I've only been there a handful of times in that span. I do know that my last time there, in the summer of 2008, whenever our subway landed in the still ravaged but functional World Trade stop, an eerie hush came over the train, as though continuing our usual chatter was disrespectful. The memory was still instant, much like it is when visiting Pearl Harbor today, even though so many of us weren't even born yet.

I know a lot of people who have 9/11 stories that are still amazing. My uncle & aunt were supposed to be on Flight 93 but decided, rather flippantly, to take a later flight. I know at least five people who worked in or near the World Trade Center and overslept or missed their train or whatever and ended up missing work that morning. A filmmaker friend of mine was amazed that he couldn't get a cab from Manhattan to the Bronx, proving that, even in moments of national tragedy, some New York cabbies are still worried about getting robbed by college educated black dudes. And, of course, I know of people who lost their lives in the attack.

My own September 11th story is so anti-climatic, it is embarrassing. I was 24, living at my cousin's house in the San Fernando Valley and in between temporary assignments. I was awoken by a phone call from someone looking for my cousin, who was alarmed when I sleepily told him that she was in New York City on business.

"New York City!" he said. "Oh mu God. Have you heard from her?"
"Not today." I tried to go back to sleep.
"Oh my God, let me know when you hear from her!"
"Dude chill out, I'm trying to sleep. She's been to New York before."
"Do you know what happened?! Go turn on the TV. They blew up the World Trade Center."

This dude was tripping. I stumbled into the living room and that's when I saw. I woke up. My cousin, of course, was fine. And I remember that afternoon and evening being consumed by an obsessive urge to watch everything related to the day's trauma, as though I was trying to atone for being so removed from the biggest American tragedy of my lifetime.

Since then, we have become engaged in two wars that are unpopular, unfocused and unending. We have an African- American president, which I never thought I'd live to see. We have suffered more personal calamities, financially and emotionally. We are bonded in ways unfamiliar before that tragic day and yet, things are generally worse.

But we go on because we must. We go on for those who would've gone on but had that decision taken out of their hands. We go on because that's what Americans have always done. I personally go on because of my faith, family and dreams.

As this 10th anniversary (still looking for that word) passes without incident - as of my writing - I challenge us to remember the past, of course, but use it as fuel for the future. A future that can be bright if we put aside our selfishness and work together. We owe that to those we lost, at least.


Jason Gilmore is a film director, screenwriter, novelist and unrepentant Detroit Pistons fan. Track him down on Facebook.

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tracey kelley
9.13.11 @ 8:55a

I chose not to really pay attention to all the commemorative events, news stories, testimonials, and so on, mainly because I'm simply jaded. We're not together as a people. The political climate is more toxic now than it's ever been. Citizens are suffering in a variety of ways. While I think that most people in their true hearts don't want to spread ill will, through entertainment, we bask in it.

Annually, there are more Americans killing Americans than any terrorists have.

jason gilmore
9.13.11 @ 11:10a

Sad but very true points, Tracey.

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