It’s 4AM on 9/11 and I can’t sleep. This day has felt like an out-of-body experience for each of the previous 11 years – I can “see” the murderers getting on the planes, I can “see” them taking control, I can “see” them crashing the airplanes into the Pentagon and Twin Towers, and I can “see” the passengers taking control of the plane that crashed in the Shanksville area.
Yet I really can still see the Towers falling.
I was on the corner of 42nd and 6th along with thousands others when the first Tower came down.
I can still hear the silence and the sobs.
This was all before social media, before bandwidth would have allowed the flow of petabytes of streaming video, before Twitter posts and Facebook Likes. The Internet had slowed to a crawl, all circuits were busy but the only technology that enabled communication were Blackberrys. Prehistoric times.
But in the weeks following 9/11, this was also when people actually talked to each other; when friends came together and shared hopes and fears; when families did things as a family, spur-of-the-moment activities that didn’t involve proving “offspring genetic superiority” to other families in the neighborhood. There were more hugs than handshakes. For a time it wasn’t about “me” but about “us”…
But 12 years later, it’s the Social Media Age, with the minutiae of our lives shared in real-time – and we’re all richer for it. We text across rooms, our Snapchats disappear, we self-anoint ourselves as Rockstars, Ninjas, Gurus, and Experts, and receive a little dopamine spritz every time someone Likes, Shares, or retweets. We document our lives in “the Cloud”, walk through intersections with our heads buried in our smartphones oblivious to traffic conditions, check work emails at 3AM.
If the memory of 9/11 has fallen off your front page because your ego-driven, marketing induced digital life has become so important, then at least for this one day think of the 2,977 who never had the chance to Tweet, Like, or Share their lives with anyone. Don’t text, talk. Don’t tweet, call. Don’t Like, hug.