I’ll set the scene. I’m sitting in my bedroom, on my comfortable high back, swivel chair at my desk. The desk is an Office Depot masterpiece and houses my state of the art computer matched with a fabulous flat screened CRT monitor. I built the PC together myself, at great expense, with all the latest tech. That’s how I was back then with gadgetry. I’ve got a day off work from managing a Texaco service station in Bournemouth, although I live in constant dread that the phone will ring and I’ll be called in because of ‘an emergency’. Which is usually national-minimum-wage employee code for something unimportant which could have waited till tomorrow.
It’s a beautiful autumn day with the sun streaming in the windows and lighting up the terracotta coloured walls of my room. The skirting boards and furniture are all a rich blue. A very Mexican scene, although this is Dorset and I’m still more than eighteen months away from my first visit to Mexico. I have a blue bookcase, full of hundreds of DVDs and plenty of Lonely Planet travel guides. Because Netflix doesn’t exist yet and I’m still of back packing age. I’d recently gotten back from Thailand and a trip to Malaysia was coming up real fast.
But I’m facing away from them, looking at my PC monitor. One hand controls the mouse as I surf the web. The other holds a cigarette, occasionally tapping the ash off the end into an almost full ashtray. There’s a nicoteine flavoured haze in the room. I was single back then, so I smoked in my room. And I was more than a year away from hitting 30, so I was still living under the illusion of immortality. What was I reading that day? I used Opera for my web browsing and the BBC news tab was open for sure. Back then Tony Blair was prime minister and a pretty popular one at that. Maybe I’d been reading politics. I don’t entirely remember. Most news was pretty mundane back then. It was about half past one in the afternoon, so we were still a few minutes away from that all changing.
I just remember seeing a strip of breaking news appear on the BBC website. Something about a plane. A building. And New York. It sounded interesting. Potentially dramatic. So I picked up my television remote control. I had a beautiful Panasonic 28″ telly with a glossy wooden trim and cabinet. I switched straight on to BBC 24, the news channel. And there was live video of the twin towers, one on fire. Naturally, such an image provokes many a question.
These were answered, in part, within a few minutes. I watched the second plane go into the other tower on live tv, although it took a minute or two to really register. So. Ok. This probably isn’t an accident. The world has changed since then. As have I. I’m approaching my mid 40s with an increasing sense of my mortality, I’m married and am definitely not allowed to smoke in the house. I’d like to paint the living room walls of our newly purchased flat a shade of terracotta, but Mrs P is having none of it. I visited Ground Zero in September 2003. I was underwhelmed. It was hard to relate what was, by then, a building site to the horrors that had occured a year and a half earlier. The photo above came from that trip. And has been processed through Prisma.
The legacies of that day are numerous. But I’ll whittle down the list to the two most lasting day to day effects of that September morning. Firstly, the 9/11 conspiracy theorists have almost eaten the internet alive. Not only do those of us born after the Kennedy assassination now have our own ‘Where were you when…’ moment, but we also have an iconic event within our lifetime for those with an overactive and distinctly paranoid imagination to focus on. Secondly, an entire generation of Brits have become completely incapable of correctly formulating the date of the most important event of the 21st century.