Tuesday, September 05, 2006

5 years of terror ( part 1)

As the September 11th anniversary draws nearer, I've been thinking, as have most of the newspapers, and TV programmers, about how next Monday marks 5 years of 'The War Against Terror'. Recently I caught two TV programmes about 9/11: last night, 'The Miracle of Stairwell B', and on Sunday night, a programme about the firemen of 9/11. Both were very moving; you looked into the faces of ordinary people who explained exactly what happened to them on September 11th 2001. The close-ups of people talking was interspersed with the shots of the planes smashing into the Towers, the Towers' spectacular end. However many times you see the Towers fall, the image still has a huge power. Which was, of course, the whole point.

At the weekend I also read Martin Amis Last Days of Muhammed Atta - which I thought was contrived in parts, but haunting in other parts, then I read the incredible poem that I link to in the post below.

And for the last three nights I have dreamed of terrorism, of September 11th. I have never dreamed of it before, but this anniversary it has invaded my sleeping night after night. The images of the falling Towers has meshed into me in a way it never did before, it has become talismanic, Jungian, uber-symbolic; it is becoming W.H Auden's huge imago of a psychopathic God (in one of his most worryingly prescient poems.)

That mythic, blockbuster, money-shot of the fall of the two silver giants of the NY skyline still emanates a sinister gravity so strong as to pull in people, presidents, policies, popular culture. The violence of the event fills the screen and burns the eyes, the ultimate jihadi snuff film, the pornography of super-violence, and watching it you still feel manipulated: first the SFX- cinematic adrenalin jump, the guilty flicker of schadenfreude on seeing the swaggering big boy smashed to the floor, blasted and roaring, then the clutching horror of realising that this is not an action-movie, but real, oh my God, those people, how many, my God ... But God doesn't answer. No Bruce Willis, no Superman comes to save the day, (but firemen, police officers have already run to help, and many of them don't run out again.) Then the dreadful white dust, obliterating everything, like a biblical cloud sent to smite and wipe out all that dared to be innocently, normally present before. The streets filled with ash; grey, white, falling like snow. And everywhere, the staggering, staggered people, mouths and eyes an O, stretched wide with disbelief. Time stops, stretches out, hangs balanced as the world turns; time speeds up again. News, news, newsnewsnews - everything is forgotten but these pictures, this news. People all over the world watching it, agape, a billion eyes, widened, O, O, can you believe it? The first Shock and Awe 'spectacular'.

Then the smaller, realer images. The ones we can cope with. The messages to, and the pictures of the loved lost ones; tied to the railings, (as they were here in London five years later.) The pointless queueing to give blood. The stinking, evil cloud. The things the TV screen couldn't share with us. The filthy, filthy smell.

I wasn't there. I heard about the plane hitting the World Trade Centre from a friend who loved New York, who had visited the city just before it happened. I watched it on TV, live, having woken to a text from my friend. ( I was drowsing in bed, ill with a feverish sore throat). The same friend had texted me when Concorde fell out of the sky in Paris. It's always either a forwarded joke, or mass death, when I see his name beep up on the phone's screen unexpectedly. The text said 'PLANE HIT SKYSCRAPER!!' I waited for the punchline for five sleep-stupid minutes, then texted back 'DON'T GET IT'. He texted back 'TURN ON TV RIGHT NOW IT IS TERRORBLE.

Confused, I did. Then the phone started going mad, as everyone else started to text the same kind of messages, and then we all watched the second plane hit on our different TVs and computer screens all over London, all over England, we watched the first Tower fall, then the second.Watched it all, together, but alone.

I remember the retching feeling of vertigo, too shocked even to cry, until I saw the people jumping. That was the part I thought of again and again later, not the extraordinary fall of the Towers, but the ordinary people at the windows waving to us millions watching them; the people who knew there was no hope, so they just stepped off the ledge into a brilliant blue sky, leaving the ordinary office that was suddenly a horror, seeing the silver of the Hudson, the intricate lattice of streets, cars, buildings. People, so many people, all staring up at them as they looked down; as they fell; tears streaming from the eyes of those watching, wind-tears streaming from the eyes of the falling ones. Falling with your eyes open, waiting for the city to come rushing up to meet you. This is what haunts my dreams.

On Sunday, I dreamed that J and I were in the hijacked plane, but it was flying much, much lower, so low that you could somehow wrench open the door and jump out, fall a few dozen feet into the sparkling water of the river, splashdown into safety, surface, gasping, swim to where reaching hands would pull us out to the welcoming shore. So in my dream, we were smiling with relief, J and I; we were holding hands as we jumped out of the plane, telling each other ' I love you, we'll be ok', as we flew from the terrorplane where people were screaming and screaming. And we were free, and people jumped out after us, and it was all right, and most people escaped, and the future was different, and the plane fell into the water, and sank, and only a few people died.

3 Comments:

Blogger Gamba said...

I'm so glad I am not the only one who dreams about this stuff. I'd prefer to have your happy endings though, and to be able to express my feelings about it as well as you do.

September 05, 2006 4:32 pm  
Blogger Granny said...

I love your blog, well done and keep going. I also saw the programes you mentioned and have 'wondered'.
Much love granny
www.thedevinegranny.blogspot.com/

September 08, 2006 2:53 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This atrocity is just one of many down the centuries committed by religious people of all kinds. Religion is the greatest evil to have ever gripped mankind because religion enslaves the mind, so that it can justify anything.

October 14, 2006 6:02 am  

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