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Remembering 9-11: what were you doing on September 12? 

050911-9-11-4[Cross-posted] This is my 9-11 commemoration post and in case you thought the title is a typo, I can assure you it’s not.
   Mention to any New Zealander ‘9-11’ and while we would understand the reference, to us it all happened on the morning of September 12, 2001.
   I remember switching off the TV before 1 a.m. on September 12 thinking that there was no big news that day, and went to bed. It really did start off as a quiet news day.
   All night, I dreamed about people—probably Americans—channel-surfing. No matter what channel they got to, it was the same news item. I could not make out what the news item was.
   I was awakened by a phone call from my friend Edward Hodges, who knew I had people in New York covering Fashion Week. He also knew of my close ties because I was in New York in August 2001. I was outside the Twin Towers weeks before, declining a friend’s invitation to visit the Observation Deck because I would be back in October.
    Edward filled me in. I don’t remember panicking. I just remembered that I had to find out what had happened to my friends. The charitable would call it grace under pressure. The less charitable would call it an automatic reaction to shock. Maybe they are both correct.
   September 12, 2001 was the first day of the Wellington Fashion Festival. No one was in a mood to party. I had to get back from the breakfast do at Kirkcaldie’s to find out what had happened to friends and colleagues. One, the husband of my host in New York, was normally due to exit at the WTC stop on the Subway at exactly the time the first jet hit.
   I found he was OK after calling but I kept my conversation short. ‘Is everyone OK?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Right, I’ll hang up then.’
   I don’t know how I found time to do it, but I wrote an editorial in Lucire that day. I was flattered to find that it touched such a nerve that it was forwarded in emails around the world at that time. Our website cover background went from red to black. The event did inspire me, perhaps, to preach my humanist agenda more and a lot of its thinking was found in my 2005 book, Typography & Branding, which I actually wrote in 2002.
   That evening there were three Festival events: one at the National Library (where Susan Bartels told me that she had a friend who did not make it to work because his alarm did not go off—otherwise he’d have been in the World Trade Center), a second one in the sheds on the wharf for Minx Shoes, and a third installation on Cuba Street, at which I met the jewellery designer Mandi Kingsbury.
   The following weeks were strange. I had a friend who was a waiter in NYC and he noted a change in behaviour for a fortnight after 9-11. People were nice to him for two weeks, then became bastards again. I don’t know if his being black and gay had anything to do with it—African–American friends indicate to me that it might. An Arab–American friend down in Princeton told me how her friends were getting kicked out of cafés, some just for reading a newspaper printed in Arabic. These days, those weeks seemed more surreal than the actual attack.
   Down here, we were united with the US and we even sent troops that time to Afghanistan.
   We were also united in prayer. Churches organized prayer vigils. The US recorded a statistic where a clear majority of Americans prayed on and immediately after 9-11.
   I returned in 2005 to pay tribute to those who perished in the Twin Towers, joining thousands of mourners on the morning of September 11, eastern time. By then, it was a very different world again.

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Entries from 2006 to the end of 2009 were done on the Blogger service. As of January 1, 2010, this blog has shifted to a Wordpress installation, with the latest posts here.
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