It shocked me last week when historical footage of Sept. 11, 2001, suddenly looked, well, historical.
Eleven years ago, I thought that day never would age, that the film wouldn’t turn grainy and reflective of a decade’s worth of technological improvements in clarity, color and sound.
Yet, as I watched History Channel documentaries on the eleventh anniversary, the archived media reports seemed, all at once, from a different time.
Has it really been 11 years?
What surprised me even more, however, was having a conversation about 9/11 with my almost 12-year-old son, Ford, who had been just a baby when the World Trade Center collapsed…
I reflected on this with him while I drove him to school last Wednesday. He told me that he had gotten up at 5:00 a.m. and watched a documentary about 9/11 on television. My first thought: Who gets up at 5:00 a.m.? My second thought: My kid is old enough to watch the History Channel … voluntarily?
“And what did you think?” I asked him.
“It’s weird that all of it happened when I was a baby,” he said.
An interesting commentary on qualities of the TV footage that shaped peoples’ perceptions of 9/11.
The attack was designed to be telegenic, marked by visual and sonic spectacle. Yet much of the horror unfolded off-screen: inside the planes and buildings, on the ground immediately below the towers, and in desperate phone calls to loved ones and 911 operators.
In researching my latest show, I’ve read a lot about Galileo. His astronomical findings were key in demonstrating that the sun didn’t move around the earth, as had been thought for the past 1500 years. It took over 200 years to finally prove Galileo was right, but the shift from a geocentric to a heliocentric universe started with him.
I was surprised and please to discover that Galileo met John Milton, author of Paradise Lost, an epic poem in which Milton attempts to explain the cosmos via literature (and is the source for one of my favorite series, the His Dark Materials trilogy, by Phillip Pullman, the title of which is a reference to the poem.) Even better, this 2008 article about their meeting by Jonathan Rosen for the New Yorker, touches on all 3 of my show topics: cosmology, love, and disaster.
First, some background on their meeting:
Sometime in 1638, John Milton visited Galileo Galilei in Florence. The great astronomer was old and blind and under house arrest, confined by order of the Inquisition, which had forced him to recant his belief that the earth revolves around the sun, as formulated in his “Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems.” Milton was thirty years old—his own blindness, his own arrest, and his own cosmological epic, “Paradise Lost,” all lay before him…
Beyond the sheer pleasure of picturing the encounter—it’s like those comic-book specials in which Superman meets Batman—there’s something strange about imagining these two figures inhabiting the same age. Though Milton was the much younger man, in some ways his world system seems curiously older than the astronomer’s empirical universe.
[All quotes via Return to Paradise : The New Yorker.]
“When astronauts describe the feeling of sailing around space, looking at our planet from hundreds of miles above, they often invoke the phrase “orbital perspective,” a shorthand for the emotional, psychological, and intellectual effects of seeing “the Earth hanging in the blackness of space.”
Over the course of [Sept 11th] and into the following few days, Culbertson wrote a letter to those at home, and his words echo that orbital perspective…”It’s horrible to see smoke pouring from wounds in your own country from such a fantastic vantage point,” he wrote. “The dichotomy of being on a spacecraft dedicated to improving life on the earth and watching life being destroyed by such willful, terrible acts is jolting to the psyche.”
Always A Family — On the morning of September 11th, Michael Trinidad called his ex-wife, Monique Ferrer, from the 103rd floor of the World Trade Center’s North Tower to say goodbye. In the wake of his death, Monique tells the story of Michael’s lasting legacy — the family they built together.
She Was the One — When Richie Pecorella met Karen Juday, she captured his heart and changed his life. They were engaged and living together in Brooklyn when Karen was killed in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, where she worked as an administrative assistant. Here, Richie remembers Karen, his love and inspiration.
John and Joe — John Vigiano Sr. is a retired New York City firefighter whose two sons followed him into service — John Jr. was a firefighter, too, and Joe was a police detective. On September 11, 2001, both Vigiano brothers responded to the call from the World Trade Center, and both were killed while saving others. John Sr. remembers his sons and reflects on coping with his tremendous loss.
“There is a new generation that is just now learning about what happened back on Sept. 11, 2001. History books, media attention and our schools have been tasked with bringing the tragic events of this day into focus and how it has reshaped our society as a whole. It is important for this young generation to absorb the events of that day and to try and make sense of it all.
We are the curators of American History and each and every parent should take time to talk to their children and let them know why today is a special day in the hearts and minds of each and every American.”
[Bell’] felt that each of them could be classified as “post 9/11” artists.
“Their worldview is defined by the angst, the unease, the trepidation of the difficulties of the 21st century,” he says.
Bell, who’s only 32 himself, admires how these artists unite new technology with centuries-old crafts. They’re using everything from silversmithing to ceramics to explore post-Sept. 11 concerns: globalism, privacy, sustainable living, war.
Mazza, 34, intended [her piece, Knit for Defense] to recall national efforts to knit for soldiers during World War II, when knitting connected civilians to the frontlines. Nowadays, people connect to the wars abroad through Youtube videos. Hence, the knit pixels. Mazza says even though she’s exploring explicitly post-Sept. 11 themes, she’s not really comfortable with the label: “post 9/11 artist.” She doesn’t like the idea of artists being framed by just one thing.