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Reflections: One Day In America: 9.11.01

One Day In America: 9.11.01

By Leo Koziol - oshie@earthlink.net

Its been intriguing, America makes so much of tragedy to its own. Living in San Francisco, which was razed to the ground almost a century ago, you carry an almost pregnant expectation of something terrible happening. Planning my return to Aotearoa at the end of this year, I was half wondering, half expectant of something awful happening. Yesterday, most palpably, and most tragically, it did.

* * * *

I awoke to the shouts of my roommate Wesley saying they had blown up the World Trade Center and that a plane had crashed into the Pentagon. I got up, dazed and confused, and ran to watch the television to see the twin towers, these great Temples of Capitalism, crumbling to the ground. Wesley, who had lived much of his life in New York, was in tears next to me. The sense of so much of what this meant for the world's future washed over us.

Outside, it was a perfect day, much as it was in New York City. A strangely perfect day. After dosing myself with three cigarettes, and hugging Wesley farewell, I set off on my bike for work. The homeless people across the street were talking of the disaster. Further down the street, people were hugging on the sidewalk. You could feel the strangeness of the events unfolding.

You can see the Bank of America tower, the city's largest building and no doubt a potential target, clearly from the front door of where I work, in the drug and crime ridden Mission District. It was still standing. The sky was a wash of brilliant blue. The sky was empty; every plane in the nation, down on the ground. The gray airplane contrails, the everpresent cobwebs in the sky, missing.

The mood in the office was somber. Emails from our head office in New Jersey, the suburbs of the great Center, first noting the occurrence of the event; then a sense from people there of the magnitude of the situation. Phones, email, internet, temporarily crippled. Go home, if you need too.

The small group of us in the office, a dozen of us, shellshocked, rallied around the television most of the day, the reality of it all slowly sinking in. Such a thing to wake up to.

I cycled home for lunch, sat in the garden in silence. The day dragged on. Another building collapsing. The nagging notion that all four planes were headed here, to California.

In the afternoon, came a shocked email from one of the marketing directors that all flights will be down until midday Wednesday. An outrage! Such a bizarre sense of entitlement we Americans possess. We need to realize, we can no longer take anything for granted.

In the evening, my friend Oliver came over, and we got drunk in the back garden, washing away the mess of the day, a strangely warm and fogless evening. Pored across the special edition of the San Francisco Chronicle (http://www.sfgate.com/), a sad history in the making.

After phoning a friend and my family back home, I collapsed, asleep in the early evening, as the light of the brilliant day faded away. Strange dreaming of the school I grew up, Nuhaka School, where my son Jordan attends to his education this very day. What world have I brought him into, what future do we hold?

At 2 a.m. I awoke to the sound of planes overhead. Eerily close. Fighter jets. We are at war. The future, clearly, is uncertain.

* * * *

A year and a half ago, I was at a rave, with my friend Kathy. January of 2000. It was a new decade, a new century, a new millenium. So much of the horror of the 20th Century we seemed to be putting behind us. The crowd was convivial and friendly and overwhelmingly positive. A bit of a burning man (http://www.burningman.com/) groupie crowd, held at Cell Space (http://www.cellspace.org/) near where I now work. The average age of attendees was early 30s; Kathy's friends described it as the "geriatric rave". Cute.

I was overwhelmed with happiness by the mood of the crowd, and deeply positive toward what the future holds.

.despite all the events of yesterday, my positivity remains.

I look forward greatly to my return to Aotearoa, uncertain of how it will all turn out; but now nowhere near as uncertain about what the world's future holds.

* * * *

America's age of entitlement is over. We've suffered through nine months of the Bush administration's fumblings and ignorance of the concerns of the global community, and its come to this. A list:

-- Americans take cheap and frequent air travel for granted. Jet fuel prices are ridiculously low, with no account for environmental impact, with passenger levels projected to double in the next twenty years. An impossible situation. In Europe, air travel is less common, and the rail network is dense and well utilized. The time for high speed rail in the U.S. is now. Fact: trains can be hijacked, but they cannot be steered in the sky toward national landmarks.

-- Security workers at U.S. airports are paid minimum wage to do a job that gravely concerns national security. An outrage, but nonetheless unsurprising given the lack of service worker unionization in this nation. This is clearly a big labor issue for the U.S., and one that all the opponents of the WTO/IMF/World Bank need to get behind now.

-- Say goodbye to big buildings and hello to more and more sprawl and more and more office headquarters in bunkered office parks in the suburbs. The inner cities staged a comeback under Clinton; with the Bush administration, and the unfolding of these events, look forward to sprawl, sprawl, and more sprawl. Gated communities. Fortressed high schools. And personal, concealed, weapons sanctioned by newly enacted state laws.

- ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Leo Koziol is a thirty-something Maori American New Zealander currently living in San Francisco, about to join the hordes of trickle back brain drainers returning to Aotearoa as the global economy tanks and world security becomes scarily insecure. Mr. Koziol has lived in the U.S. for five years, where he worked for the Resource Renewal Institute ( http://www.rri.org/) promoting positive environmental policies, including those of New Zealand. Leo's personal website can be found at: http://www.geocities.com/oshie1000/.


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