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The meaning of 9-11, seven years on


September 10, 2008/13.34

9-11 parking stubAs it is September 11 here in New Zealand, I thought about what I might write in tribute to those who fell that day. Then I remembered that I wrote something last year at this time, viz. quoting my own editorial written on September 11, 2001 (which, of course, was the 12th as far as Kiwis were concerned).
   I recall the world changed that day. I was planning to return to New York and September was my month back here, recharging batteries. Needless to say, that return never happened.
   I still remember the usual crisis-mode version of me kick in and I never felt the grief of the families on that first day, because my duty was to make sure that my team was all right, as well as friends who lived in Lower Manhattan or who were due to get off the subway stop beneath the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers around that time.
   Then I had to attend the start of the Wellington Fashion Festival (my parking ticket is shown above left) and no one was in any mood to celebrate.
   And I devoted the time following 9-11 to my work on corporate social responsibility, leading up to my first Medinge Group summit that year. (The name had not even been coined at this point.) Much of that energy was used in my book Typography & Branding; if anyone still has any copies of it, you may see an idealistic streak underlying most of the words.
   But we should retain such ideals, even if many of us have been given good reason to be cynical in the years that followed.
   If the deaths of nearly 3,000 people are to have any meaning, it is that: a reminder that we do hold certain principles dear and they should be retained and practised.
   One friend waiting tables back in those days said New Yorkers were nice to him after the disaster but the bitterness and nastiness returned two weeks later.
   It is sad that it didn’t take long for some of us to forget a tragedy, and the seventh anniversary of the attacks on the United States should be a reminder that at one point, we did re-evaluate our lives and their meaning.
   And whatever positive result that came from that introspection should resurface on September 11, 2008—and we should at least make a commitment this year to hold on to some of those life-affirming thoughts for longer, rather than see ourselves return to the cynicism that mars so much of modern life. We owe the victims a lot more than going through life living half of our potential, or in negativity. Their deaths have to mean something more.

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