Unlike many, I can’t say my outlook was dramatically changed by the 9/11 attacks. Even the event itself fades as time goes by. My most vivid memory was of a student returning to a class he’d skipped to inform our hapless math teacher that he thought “we were at war.” I vaguely remember the plume of smoke rising from the Pentagon, visible from the windows of our suburban high school. I also remember asking my AP English teacher if the government would respond by curtailing civil liberties – a hint, no doubt, of my nascent pro-terrorist sympathies.
I’ll restrain my commentary to this lovely piece from Culture 11, which does a wonderful job of capturing the fleeting sense of community engendered by great tragedy. My only criticism is that this sort of thing risks lapsing into disaster-fantasy. Yes, it was nice to watch everyone come together, but communal bonds are created and strengthened through thousands of more mundane interactions. We shouldn’t have to rely on great tragedies to remind ourselves of that.