Ten years ago today was an utterly unmemorable day.
My computer’s calendar says it was a Monday. I don’t recall. I don’t even recall many details of my work schedule at the time, but I think I worked on those days. Which means I probably got up, had breakfast, drove to work, did my job, then came home, ate dinner, watched some TV, read, and went to sleep. I might have even hopped on to AOL for a while — I hadn’t quite outgrown it at that point.
In the news, the presidential campaign was moderately interesting. The race featured two of the dullest slates put up since… well, 1992. Al Gore — Mr. Boring Stiff Technocrat — was trying to run and yet not run as Bill Clinton’s heir. On the other side, Texas’ governor George W. Bush (son of the guy who’d won the previous Contest of Dullards cited above) was stumbling his way along.
In another echo of the 1992 race, the vice-presidents were the more interesting folks. Dick Cheney — former Congressman, former cabinet secretary — was playing the mature adult on the Republican side. Gore, on the other hand, had picked Connecticut’s Senator Joe Lieberman, the first Jew on a national ticket. But those two guys were also pretty dull people.
We’d all survived the Y2K Bug crisis which we’d feared would bring civilization to its knees. I still remember my favorite Y2K joke — make certain your zippers are Y2K compliant, or at the stroke of midnight your pants will fall down. The only way to be certain was to check the tab of your zipper. That’ll tell you if you’re safe. (Go ahead and check any zippers you have on or handy. It might take you a few tries to get the joke.)
In the theaters, it was a bit of a lull. Apparently “Bring It On” was the big thing. On TV, summer reruns were winding down and the fall premieres were coming — with all the buzz on this new genre called “reality shows.” This stupid show called “Survivor” had dominated the summer ratings, and now all the networks wanted in on the racket. In sports, a few people were predicting the first “Subway Series” since 1956, with the Yankees facing the Mets. And in music, Janet Jackson’s “Doesn’t Really Matter” was just about to get bumped off by Madonna’s “Music.”
In the Middle East, it was a period of relative quiet. We were three weeks before the start of the Second Intifada, the Palestinian uprising and wave of terrorism that would last four years and claim almost seven thousand lives.
In Iraq, Saddam Hussein was still smarting from his defeat in the Gulf War. He’d been force to sign a humiliating surrender agreement, but was playing his “cheat and retreat” game, defying and lashing out at the West.
And in Afghanistan, the terrorists who’d tried to bring down the World Trade Center towers seven years ago, and who’d tried to blow up two American embassies in Africa two years ago, were getting to commit their greatest blow against America’s power and prestige: to attack and possibly sink a United States Navy warship when it visited Yemen.
But those were in the future, and very few people in the world knew they were coming.
On September 11, 2000, so many of us were blissfully ignorant about the events of the next month, and of their long-term consequences.
September 11, 2000 was an utterly unremarkable day for so many of us. Absolutely nothing memorable or even notable happened, certainly nothing that would make that day stand out starkly in our memories ten years later.
And no one — absolutely no one — that we were only one year away from the whole world changing.
One year away from that beautiful, terrible day, after which nothing would ever be the same.