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Thoughts on 9-11, ten years on


September 11, 2011/12.40

Every September 11, I feel compelled to write an editorial about that September 11. New York Fashion Week was on, just as it is now, and I was back at HQ in New Zealand, mere weeks after being in NYC myself.
   Seventeen hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time, our September 11, 2001 passed uneventfully. I even turned the TV off minutes before the first jet hit the World Trade Center towers in the small hours of September 12, thinking it was going to be a quiet news night.
   I could then talk about the dream I had that morning, of people switching channels and seeing the same thing, the early-morning call from Edward Hodges telling me what had happened, and stumbling to the first day of the Wellington Fashion Festival on a day when no one really wanted to celebrate. I could talk about how we changed the Lucire web edition’s cover to black as a mark of respect that day. I could talk about emails being sent with attachments featuring victims falling from the WTC or the towers collapsing.
   But then, this editorial would be like nine others I had written in print and online.
   For the 10th anniversary of the event, it might be more fitting to write of what 9-11 has meant to me, each time I think of the deaths and the sacrifices on that day.
   I want to do so apolitically, out of respect to the victims in the United States and in those caught up in the wars that were waged subsequently.
   Nine-eleven brings me the message of selflessness. I visited one of the ladder companies near the WTC, the first people who responded to Flight 11 hitting the North Tower. The FDNY guys were deep in mourning, remembering their fallen comrades. Those men and women in all emergency services who knew that they could be going to their deaths that day put the welfare of others first. None of them discerned the races and creeds of those they were rescuing. They had a job to do.
   Nine-eleven brings me the message of perspective. A friend who was a waiter told me that his customers simply treated everyone nicely in the wake of the disaster. A tragedy of this scale meant a coffee that took an extra minute to arrive was not the end of the world.
   Nine-eleven brings me the message of humanity. Some of our financial and political systems may leave something to be desired, but at the core, human nature’s positive side remains intact when our backs are against the wall.
   Yet the aftermath was not always pleasant. Arab-Americans reading newspapers in the language of the old country were asked to leave restaurants and cafés. It took only two weeks for my waiter friend to encounter the same old rudeness. His customers went back to self-importance, forgetting that we were in this game of life together. Never mind that people were hurting, or that Mayor Giuliani was attending funeral FDNY services with empty coffins in the very same city: where is my goddamn coffee?
   Does it really take a tragedy with such a massive loss of life for some people to take a step back from the minutiæ of their own existence and accept others’ feelings? And only for two weeks?
   If we’re to accept that those thousands of deaths that are part of the 9-11 attacks, the 7-7 attacks in 2005, and those killed in wars linked to that infamous day a decade ago, surely we can do better than display a bit of humanity for a fortnight?
   As a human race, surely we can be selfless more often in our lives, understand the feelings of another human being, and what our own actions might do to them?
   That it need not take a disaster of such magnitude for us to do what those heroes did on 9-11: showing some humanity and be a little more giving in our everyday lives?
   As this editorial goes out just shy of the exact 10-year mark of the first jet hitting the North Tower, I like to think that I have lived by the right principles—sometimes to my own detriment, but more often than not, to my clear conscience and benefit.
   I’d rather lead by example, than retreat out of fear. Those old patterns that don’t serve humanity need not be repeated. If I can do it, everyone can.
   On this tenth anniversary, pledging to live by a positive example is perhaps the best tribute all the 9-11 victims can have.—Jack Yan, Publisher

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Filed by Jack Yan

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