Hi everyone. Today is September 11, 2011. Ten years after the ... well, you know. It's all over the news. Every network is showing memorial programs, interviews, and images. It has been almost two hours since the much-anticipated 'moment of silence'. I turned on a major network so I could watch what they did. For 60 seconds, they showed a slideshow of images from 9/11, without commentary. Then they went back to their regularly-scheduled preparation for the big game. I flipped a few more channels, to see if any other network had joined in the remembrance; if they had, their moment was just as brief. A sixty-second moment, then back to earning advertising dollars.
I found that oddly dissatisfying. So I have been reliving things in my own way. I pulled out my printed copy of Issue 14 - Terror! of DEMONGROUND, and re-read my opening editorial. I think there are still aspects of that editorial that resonate with me, so I've extracted the text from the magazine and have provided it below...
Reflections of a Darker Future
Welcome to the 14th issue of DEMONGROUND! This issue is intended to take on a slightly more somber tone than usual - due primarily to events that have transpired in the last six months.
On September 11, 2001 illusions of safety and security were shattered around the globe.
For my own part, I stepped out of my suburban home on a crystal-clear Tuesday morning. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky – it was a beautiful day. I got in my car, and began my morning commute. I was leaving at the worst possible time. With enough traffic on the road, my normal 45-minute commute could easily double. I tuned in the alternative music station I normally listened to in the morning, just as the news announcer was finishing up, “Ladies and Gentlemen, repeating our top story this hour, an airplane has apparently accidentally collided with the World Trade Center in New York City. Details are sketchy at this time…”
Thus, it began for me. Just moments after the first plane struck the north tower. My first thought was that the music station wasn’t going to have enough information, and I quickly switched over to the AM band, and began searching the dial for the local news-only station. A few minutes later, the second plane struck the south tower. I picked up my cell phone and called Becky, waking her up. “Go turn on CNN. There’s something bad happening.” She was groggy and annoyed at being disturbed before the girls were awake.
“Just turn it on,” I said again, then hung up and continued listening. Reports of a third plane crashing into the Pentagon, followed by reports of a fourth plane reported missing, which in turn was followed by reports of a crash somewhere in Pennsylvania. Rumors of car bombs outside the State Department.
What the hell was happening?
Moments after the radio announcer said “It appears that there has been another explosion in the south tower. I can’t see through the smoke, but it appears that the top part of the tower has partially collapsed…”, the cell phone rang. It was Becky, now plastered in front of the television.
“My god, Mike. One of the towers just collapsed.”
“You mean partially, don’t you? The radio guy said partially.”
“No. It’s gone.”
My drive continued. It was surreal. Listening to the devastation. I looked into the windows of other cars around me, trying to see if anyone else was listening. I’m not sure what I was looking for – probably someone else sitting there looking as stunned as I felt.
I remember trying to imagine how it would look with only one of the twin towers remaining. It dawned on me that as much as the two towers together were a symbol of capitalism, the one remaining tower would become a symbol of American defiance and strength. Of course that all depended on how bad the damage was.
Reports continued of stock exchanges, government facilities and office buildings around the world being shut down and evacuated. Nobody knew what the pattern was. They could strike again anywhere. Nobody even knew who ‘they’ were.
As I entered the parking lot at my office, the second tower was collapsing. The announcer described it as dropping straight down, like a candle melting. As I ran across the parking lot my cell phone rang again.
“The second tower just collapsed.”
“I know, I’m at the office now. I’ll call you back.”
Inside, everyone was crammed into a small conference room, which contained the only television in the building. We could only get one channel, and despite the tin foil and wires jury-rigged to the back, it was a static-filled picture with ghostly double images of shocked newscasters. That was when I first saw the smoke and flames. The instant replay images we all watched over and over, as every few minutes another home-movie was made available to local newscasters. Later in the day, one shot of the first plane striking the first tower even made the airwaves.
Air traffic was diverted. Airports were closed down. No aircraft cruised American airspace except military jets and Air Force One which spent the morning making a series of leapfrog hops from airbase to airbase, pausing on occasion as the president gave harried press conferences trying to keep people up to date on the crisis, while at the same time presenting a moving target.
As the day wore on, and another building disappeared from the New York skyline, I couldn’t help shudder in realization that I used to have clients in those buildings. At one time or another, I had visited every building that now formed the pile of rubble at Ground Zero.
But out of America’s darkest hour, came a few brilliant rays of golden light. In the midst of unspeakable horror came tales of unimaginable heroism. The firefighters and policemen of New York, who ran into the fiery inferno, determined to bring as many people out as possible. Thousands died when those towers collapsed. But many were saved, thanks to the selfless actions of these brave men and women.
Firefighters and Rescue workers around the country drove through the night to help out in New York. Lines formed around the block at Red Cross blood donor facilities nationwide – so many people responded that many were actually turned away.
And then, in what I personally find the most extraordinary tale of heroism, came speculation about flight 93, the one that had crashed in a field outside Pittsburgh. The passengers on that plane used the on-board phones to contact loved ones back home. They intended to warn their families that their plane had been hijacked. But what they got instead was the chilling news about the other planes. The passengers on that ill-fated flight suddenly recognized the hijacker promises that nobody would be hurt for what they really were.
And they did something about it.
It seemed to me that the terrorists had overplayed their hand. Hijacking would never be the same again. In the past, if a plane was hijacked, it usually meant an inconvenient diversion to a remote airfield. The only danger would come when negotiations went badly, and the hijackers needed to make examples of their captives. The protocol advised sitting like cattle, trying not to call attention to yourself, less you move to the top of the example list. “Cooperate and most of us might get out of this alive.”
But after September 11 when Flight 93’s rebellious passengers turned the tables on their captors, the face of hijacking was forever transformed. How would a would-be victim ever know which kind of hijacking they were being subjected to? Was it the kind where you were inconvenienced, or the kind where you faced certain death? There would never again be a reason to assume it would be anything but the latter. The new mantra would become, “Resist and most of us might get out of this alive.”
We may never know exactly what happened on that plane. But the few reports we do have would indicate that a handful of passengers took matters into their own hands, and stormed the cockpit. The plane crashed shortly after that. Whether it was the direct result of the passengers gaining their objective or not, is immaterial. They acted, and Flight 93 did not reach its intended target.
A handful of people made a difference.
And so, in the aftermath of the tragedy, the flag that flew outside my house flew not only for the victims who had died so tragically, but also for the heroes who had given their lives - for every man or woman who chose to put their own life on the line in the service of the greater good.
I have to admit, that in those first shell-shocked days following 9/11, I felt very uncomfortable about the hobby we all share. As we watched the economic repercussions that followed the attacks, and the world teetered toward uncertainty, I came to realize how very close we had come to realizing the basic premise of most of the games supported by this magazine. I felt guilty that I had spent all those months and even years, plotting scenarios for games like Dark Conspiracy. That I had sat down and fantasized about what sort of catastrophic events could have deconstructed the world. And that in the end, the worst plots that had crossed my scheming mind, had paled in comparison to the simple, monstrous reality.
But time and again, my mind kept returning to the simple statement. A handful of people had made a difference.
A handful of people, with no other reason than circumstance, had banded together to face a common foe - to do battle with evil.
And whether they lived or died trying, they were judged to be heroes.
Who among us doesn’t wish that if we were faced with the same situation, that we would have risen to the occasion ourselves. That we would have taken up arms with our fellows and faced the gathering evil.
Isn’t that what these games we play are all about?
Aren’t the dark forces we battle in these games, acts of fictional Terrorism? Look at the motivations of the Dark Ones in DC, or the aliens of Conspiracy X or Dark*Matter. How similar they seem to the acts of suicidal terrorists. Aren’t they simply monsters willing to give their lives in the pursuit of ultimate evil?
And when each of us bands together and imagines ourselves as heroes, we pay homage to their sacrifice, and wish that given the chance, we too would make a difference.