that morning.

it is the five year anniversary of 9/11. five years ago, i was technically homeless, sleeping on my friend's couch for the previous two weeks, and working at a movie theater being paid minimum wage, for 26 hours a week. at the time, i was working on what would ultimately be a complete failure of a novel, zero sum.

i got up and turned on the television set, channel surfing until i landed on cnn. all i really remember is that there was chaos on the screen. this was after both planes had already hit the towers. bleary-eyed, it took me a while to adjust but then i saw something that jolted me awake: it was video footage of the first tower being hit. before i could register a coherent thought, they showed clips of the second plane striking the other tower and my immediate reaction was to say out loud to noone but myself, "they're being attacked." The first plane could have been a horrible accident, or the work of a deranged pilot, but this second plane meant an attack. and immediately my political science brain kicked in and i started going through possible suspects like flipping through a rolodex. a virtual who's who of enemies to the united states.

finally i tore myself away from the television set long enough to wake my friend dave, whos owned the house i was freeloading at. i banged on his door and started yelling at him to wake up. i heard dave grumble something muffled through the door from beneath his bed sheets. i pressed my forehead against the door and said that a couple of planes had hit the world trade center towers; that the americans were being attacked. dave was out of his bed and in the living room with me in seconds, and he kept saying, "oh my god. jesus. oh my god."

and the footage played over and over again from the screen; these weren't quick cuts like in some sort of mtv style action movie, where you can't really tell what is going on. these were long, extended shots, where it just seemed so... unreal. and admittedly, it looked a bit fake. like my mind wouldn't believe that it was real, that it was some sort of television show that i was watching. i kept expecting the end credits to roll down the screen. but of course it was real. every bit of it.

and then i watched the towers collapse.

i went to work that morning. i don't know why but i did. i went to work like any other morning. and i remember not wanting to be there. to desperately get to a television set. during the day, my boss would give us updates on our radios. the day was scattered with various reports about car bombs and u.s. war planes dropping bombs in iraq. but all of that was negative. the amount of misinformation was troubling, because each report was worse than the last. the only thing that was true was the fact that the world trade center was no longer there. it was bizarre standing there, ripping the tickets of the few people that came to see the matinee; people who were completely unaware of the carnage that was going on in the united states.

and then going home: sitting on the bus, there were passenges reading through a special issue of the province that was printed up, filled with pages and pages of the images. and when i got home, i sat in front of the television set all day, watching footage after footage of ashen survivors, covered in the remains of the debris, and alternate angles and new video clips of the planes hitting the towers. and like everyone else, i had a sense of helplessness. i wanted to do something, but i was in vancouver. so all i could do was watch. and wait. and even though the attack didn't happen on canadian soil, it was still in our backyard, like it was happening to a beloved family member.

later that day, my mother called me. she told me she had spoken to her sister, that my aunt and uncle who live on long island were fine, and that my two cousins who both live and work in new york, were also fine. my mother relayed to me how alice, one of my cousins who was a doctor, had told my aunt about some of the wounded she saw to in the hospital. needless to say, i knew they would be alright, but it was nice to get comfirmation anyway.

and then i thought about my trip to new york the year before. i had this tourist picture of me, my brother and my parents standing in front of a backdrop of the world trade center. it was one of those photos that you get when you go up to the top of the world trade center. halfway up, they took your picture, and by the time you got to the top, they would try to sell it to you. at the time, i balked at my mother paying for those pictures. but that day, i took a good long, hard look, and it brought back memories of the people of new york. at the time, my brother and i had been a little nervous, walking through the streets of new york by ourselves, taking the subway. what i remember though, is that i wasn't nervous because i was in new york; i was nervous because it was just a new city to me. i remember looking up at the sky, seeing only skyscrapers. coming from vancouver, i was not used to not being able to see the sky. the buildings in downtown new york were just so tall and menacing, taking up so much of the canopy. i also remembered how the people of new york were, and how they were really no different than any other city i'd been to. yes, some people were rude, but some were incredibly nice and thoughtful. every city has their blend of people, and new york was no different. just people living their lives.

you will hear a lot of writers and news anchors and commentators today say that 9/11 was the day the world changed. i don't agree with that, and i never have. the reality is, the world changed a long time ago. terrorism has run rampant for years in the middle east, in kashmir, in chechnya, in russia, in africa, in south america... no longer were attacks happening to people we didn't know, in places foreign to us. sheltered by strong economies, technology, and large oceans on either side of us, 9/11 was the day the west finally caught up to the changes the world had gone through over the last fifty years. it was the day, in a way, where the west finally became a part of the rest of the world's pain. a real and startling pain, that would drive us to know real fear for the first time in most of our lives.