4 years ago today I caught events as they unfolded in New York through Yahoo!'s news feed. It began with an item I had very little interest in -- a report that a plane had crashed into the WTC building. I had thought it was just a small private jet that had inadvertently strayed off-course and met with the unfortunate. But as the story kept updating I knew I was 'witnessing' something that had once been only thought of in works of fiction.
When news came in about the second tower being hit, I just had to stop surfin' and watch events 'live' off CNN. I could only gape in horror at the many-times repeated replays of the 2 impacts and when the towers collapsed it was totally unbelievable. It felt like I had stepped through a portal into some alternate reality and there was no way back.
People say that 9/11 was a day that changed the world. In a way it did. America expanded its idea of 'national security' beyond its own borders; we began to wake up to the idea that ordinary people who weren't necessarily combatants in any clearly-defined conflict could still be considered valuable targets by hostile parties; and as such we took comfort in having armed guards patrolling our public places where it wasn't necessary before.
But in a way, the world also remains the same. Life goes on for us and we have other crises to deal with, sometimes more immediate than always having to look over our shoulders to see what the 'terrorists' are up to. For example, the US has its hands full dealing with the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. It's not just the physical damage to infrastructure and human life but also the 1st-hand experience of how quickly chaos can take over and rule once law-enforcement services are even temporarily disrupted. Barring a nuclear explosion, no terrorist attack could ever top this catastrophe.
Over here we're dealing with a huge dengue fever epidemic and trying to come to terms with the number of spectacular homicides that have occurred in recent months. Disasters both natural and inhuman. With news like this, it's hard not to think of the world as a scary place.