Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11

September 11 will be that defining moment in our generation where everyone will remember where they were when they first heard the news. I discovered the news late. When the first plane hit the first tower at 8:46 a.m., I was sitting in a film at the Toronto International Film Festival that had started at 8:45 (our earliest of the festival that year, where we were seeing 30 films in one week). The film was called Khaled, and it was a beautifully told but horrific story about a boy whose mother dies, and, knowing that he'll be taken away and put into foster care, he shoves the body under the bed and begins lying to people about his mother's wellbeing, buying cans and cans of room spray to try to cover the smell. It was devastating... but nothing compared to what had really been happening in the world while we were watching it.

As we emerged from the movie, the first thing we noticed was how quiet the streets of Toronto were. We walked up University Ave. in Toronto and turned left on Bloor. There were barely any cars, and NO people on the streets. "Wow, there must be a LOT of people in movies right!" we marvelled as we walked along. We stopped in a McDonalds to use the bathroom and there was no one inside, and the people behind the counter were all huddled in a corner talking quietly. Weird. Then we went back out onto the street and walked to the Intercontinental Hotel, where I was meeting a friend of mine who is a prominent film critic in Toronto. He probably doesn't remember this, but he was the one who broke the news to me. I knocked on his hotel room door (where he was conducting interviews, and the cameras were all set up inside) and wandered in. He and the crew were standing in front of televisions and their faces were ashen. Standing with them was the guy they'd just been interviewing: Ryan Gosling. He wasn't yet a major star (after he left I said, "Wasn't that the guy from Breaker High?" a terrible show about students on a cruise ship that preceded The Suite Life on Deck, and my friend Richard said, "He's in town promoting an amazing film called True Believer. He's going to be a big star.") but he was a very polite guy who smiled and shook hands and then slipped out of the room as soon as it was apparent Sue and I didn't know what was happening. "So why is it like a ghost town around here?" I said, and Richard looked at me, "Oh wow, you haven't heard?" and immediately proceeded to fill us in. One plane. Another plane. The Pentagon.

I stood there in a moment of shock. The Pentagon. As he said those words I thought, "Oh my god... we're at war." And as soon as that thought was out of my head it was immediately taken over by another one, "Someone out there knew this was going to happen. Someone woke up this morning knowing this was going to happen. Someone planned this." I don't know why that was my all-pervading thought, but it's all I could think of.

Sue and I left, and I felt like I was in a fog. I wasn't a big cellphone user at the time (even now I'm crap at keeping the ringer turned on) but at some point around lunch, I realized my husband had been trying to call me. The world was in a panic in that moment, and he was calling to suggest maybe I come home and we drive out of the city, since there were immediately rumours surrounding every large city that it was going to be the next one to be hit.

We went to a place on Bloor Street for lunch. I still remember what I ordered: chicken quesadillas. As we were waiting for our order to come, we looked up at the televisions above the bar area in the restaurant, all which were tuned to CNN. And that's when I saw for the first time the footage of people jumping out of the buildings. At that moment, CNN was just keeping the cameras rolling constantly, and didn't have time to edit the footage. So not only were they showing people jumping, we could see the bodies hitting the ground. It was the most hideous thing I've ever seen on television.

I didn't eat my chicken quesadillas.

Our next film wasn't until 4pm, so we wandered aimlessly, alternately thinking we should just go home and deciding to stay since we'd spent the money on the tickets. But when we arrived at the theatre, we saw the sign that the movies for the rest of the day had been cancelled. Actors, writers, directors and producers had spent the day on phones to loved ones or trying to book flights out of the city.

I remember looking up and watching the skies for almost an hour, marvelling at the fact there were no planes in the sky. I remember taking the subway home and everyone reading an evening edition of the paper -- in an age where there were no evening editions of the paper.

And I remember the feeling that everything had changed. I was fortunate that I didn't know anyone who could have been in peril, but my heart went out to those who did. And it still does. September 11 changed everything, and it's a date that no one who experienced it will ever forget.


Marebabe said...

When all flights were grounded following the terror attacks on 9/11, air travelers were stuck in our fair city (Wichita, Kansas) for several days. I haven’t thought about this in a long time, but I now remember that after every hotel room was filled, some Wichita residents opened their homes and treated strangers from all over the world as guests. In the midst of the horror of those days, it was heart-warming to hear stories of people coming together in this way. Once flights resumed and these stranded travelers reached their homes, many wrote their thank-yous to the editorial page of the Wichita Eagle, which was a sweet and wonderful way to share in those sad and dark days. It’s always good to be reminded of the basic goodness in people.

Blam said...

That's exactly what I hope the enduring legacy of the hatefulness responsible for the September 11th attacks will turn out to be, Marebabe.

The Question Mark said...

I remember I had just started high school. It was my second week, and the morning announcements began as usual. I was excited that morning because after school, the Drama Club was going to be holding auditions for "The Sound of Music". It was my first school play, and I really, REALLY wanted to get in.
While we were sitting in science class learning what WHMIS stands for, the PA system clicked on again and the principal announced what was happening in the news. Our teacher excused herself and rushed to the staff room to watch the live footage on TV, while the rest of us sat with puzzled curiosity. When I eventually went home, I spent the evening watching CNN with my mom, just at a total loss for words.

I ended up getting a part in "The Sound of Music" (I was the only 9th grader in the entire cast). Now, 10 years later, I'm acting professionally. And TODAY, NO WORD OF A LIE, I had my first rehearsal for my second time being in "the Sound of Music", with the same director and the same friend playing Captain Von Trapp.

When I look back at my acting career, I always remember that it happened to start on the very day everyone else would never forget. Both the world and my life changed on September 11, 2001. The fact that I'm working with an almost identical group of people on an identical show exactly a decade later just goes to show how strange & funny life can be.

I just hope that ten years from NOW, we as a human race will be celebrating anniversaries for much, much happier events.

Page48 said...

I was in bed and just turned on the radio as I do every morning to help me to get in the game. I heard about the first plane and assumed, like many, that it was just a small plane, just one of those things that happens (like the Corey Lidle situation).

After hearing about the 2nd plane, I had to get up and park myself in front of the tube, where I remained until about 11:30, when I headed to work. I was shocked by how little conversation there was about it at my office. There was really nothing going on at work that would distinguish 9/11 as different than any other day.

Bell TV (then Bell Expressvu) made CNN available without subscription (no doubt in hopes of increasing same) for weeks after 9/11, as I believe they also did for Hurricane Katrina several years later, so I absorbed a lot of 9/11 coverage for some time after the actual events.

It was just under 3 weeks later, on September 30th that I was lured away from breaking news and back into the world of TV fiction with the amazing "Truth Be Told", the pilot for "Alias".

Efthymia said...

I wasn't doing anything special at the time; it was afternoon in Greece when it all happenned and I was just trying to take a nap, which of course I didn't manage to take eventually. Since New York is so far away and I didn't know anyone there, it just seemed strange and unreal.
Many people in Greece said that the Americans had it coming, or that they deserved it, which always pissed me off because the people who died were people who just went to work that day, who had nothing to do with the governement or foreign policy. Such idiocy still upsets me.
Then there was the whole conspiracy theory that the Jews knew what was going to happen and no jewish people went to work that day. Seriously, people actually believed that! Pathetic...

What followed this event were two wars, an attack in Madrid and another one in London. I just hope there's no more, and that people open their minds and realise that violence is never a good thing. (Very school essay, but it's true.)

Colleen/redeem147 said...

I was on my way to work when I heard. Work was across from the US embassy and they let us go early (just in case) so I walked up to TIFF. So quiet. So sad.

Later that week, Cindy and I went to see To End All War, a true story of a Japanese POW camp and the importance of forgiveness. I told the director it was the most important film at the festival.

Blam said...

As I wrote on my own blog yesterday, I'd woken up that morning at my mother's house expecting to move into a new apartment — but even before the news from New York we got a call that the moving truck had broken down. The next day was very surreal, as I went from being riveted to the TV alone and with family on Sept. 11th to hauling all my stuff into my new home on Sept. 12th, a ritual that would've been strangely bittersweet and chaotic even on a "normal" day. I'll never shake the image of seeing the morning's newspaper, surely now one of the most archived in history, sitting on my neighbor's welcome mat before opening the door to my empty pad.

VW: Bledef — Hip-hop revue hosted by a Lauren Graham's former TV daughter.

Missy said...

12yrs old
Was coming up on almost 9months in a small rural town in outback Western Australia(Being a City girl it was quite the change)
It was just befor 10pm on a tuesday night and I was alone in the loungeroom(My mother was asleep in her room) watching what had fast become my new fav show RoveLive..When it cut and went to the news..Sandra Sully was the news anchor back then,She explained as much as she could while they replayed the 1st plane crashing into tower 1...I was shocked,confused..scared and worried about everyone.When I collected my thoughts the second plane crashed & I literally jumped 2meters..from the couch to my mothers bedroom and somehow managed to open her door..without going straight through it...screaming at her to wake up
,she's a heavy sleeper soo she was shooing me away until I shook her and she asked what had happened..we spent the rest of the night and well into the morning watching the rescue effort.
I remember that night like it was yesterday...we had the unedited version too sooo I saw people jumping to their deaths.Definitely messes a person up.