Bicycle Diaries: 9.11.08 & 1918

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11.9.08

9.11.08 & 1918



Today is the 7th anniversary of 9.11. The very fact I don't have to explain these two numbers reflects the enormity of the attacks particularly in how they changed our lives as well as the world around us.

There is another aspect of this enormity. For there are as many meanings of 9.11 (here as well) as there are people who have felt the impact of the attacks over the last seven years. For example, I photographed this painting by Mirshakarov Akmal during a trip to Tajikistan in 2002. It is his response to 9.11. It alone shows that any attempt I could make to capture the meanings of this event would fall woefully short of the mark.

I've decided to let the enormity of 9.11 speak for itself rather than adding to all words that will be written about it today. What little I will add, can be summed by Wilfred Owen, the most famous of the WWI English trench poets. In the Preface to his book, Poems, Owen wrote,
This book is not about heroes.
English Poetry is not yet fit to speak of them.
Nor is it about deeds or lands, nor anything about glory, honour, dominion or power, except War.
Above all, this book is not concerned with Poetry.
The subject of it is War, and the pity of War.
The Poetry is in the pity.
Yet these elegies are not to this generation,
This is in no sense consolatory.

They may be to the next.
All the poet can do to-day is to warn.
That is why the true Poets must be truthful.
If I thought the letter of this book would last,
I might have used proper names; but if the spirit of it survives Prussia, --
my ambition and those names will be content; for they will have
achieved themselves fresher fields than Flanders.


Owen was killed in action on 4 November 1918 during the crossing of the Sambre-Oise Canal, exactly one week (almost to the hour - the eleventh) before the signing of the Armistice. His mother received the telegram informing her of his death on Armistice Day, as the church bells were ringing out in celebration. He is buried at Ors Communal Cemetery.

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