You really haven’t been able to escape the media coverage of the 9/11 attacks in the last few weeks, leading up to the anniversary this Sunday just gone. It is one of those heart stopping moments where almost everyone can remember where they were when they first heard. I was at my office when my girlfriend called me to say a plane had crashed into the first Tower. I was a bit dismissive at first, thinking it was a Cessna or some other small plane. Ten years ago I didn’t have permanent internet media on as we do now so I went back to what I was doing. A short while later she called me back to say another plane had hit the other Tower; this clearly wasn’t an accident. I jumped in my car and drove home to watch the news. We both sat there, incredulous, wondering what the hell was going on, as so many others did around the world. I had to teach that night and was amazed that some people showed up; I think it was a comfort thing, that we all knew each other and needed some form of reason in our lives. In the days that followed I really did wonder if the apocalypse was here.
Here we are 10 years later looking back at a most disconcerting decade. Not only 9/11, but the war in Irag, the continuing war in Afghanistan, the collapse of the banking system and the recession. Globally it’s been hard to find good news stories, but some may say the rise of Facebook is good; Apple developing the iPhone, iPad and iPod has been good. Some people may point to the great movies of the last 10 years – my personal favourites of that time were ‘The Departed’ and ‘Up’. The same will be true of your lives, some good, some bad – as the song says ‘and the world turns’.
If you have an interest in music you may be aware of the music press making a big deal of the 20th anniversary release of the Nirvana album ‘Nevermind’. Coincidentally this event also happened in September, this time 26th; the iconic first single from the album was ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ which was released on 10th September 1991. In their own way ‘Teen Spirit’ and ‘Nevermind’ had a similar effect on the music world as 9/11 had on world politics – it was cataclysmic. The video for ‘Teen Spirit’ was largely responsible for the massive rise in MTV, so influential was it. The drum sound of Dave Grohl sent people rushing to buy drum kits, Kurt Cobain’s tortured soul inspired thousands of singers and bands. I was thinking about albums that have influenced the music world and I can think of only three: ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ by The Beatles, ‘Led Zeppelin IV’ and ‘Nevermind’. There have been many trends in music and great innovators, but I can’t think of many albums. Some may also point to the music of Miles Davis and David Bowie, but for me it really stops at these three – although there have been many massive sellers, of course: ‘Thriller’, ‘Dark Side of the Moon’, ‘Rumours’ and ‘Bat out of Hell’. If then, we are looking back, consider the world since 1991 – twenty years of innovation and incident. In 1991 there was the first Iraq War (deja vu?), the Soviet Union dissolved and Yeltsin was named President, Mount Pinatubo erupted and here’s a significant one: Tim Berners-Lee announced the invention of the World Wide Web on 6th August.
Decades are interesting periods of time to look back on; they make us reflect. In 1991 my only child was born on 19th August; one of my stepsons was born on 3rd August that year too. I was working as a stock controller in a windows factory in Corby. I was 28 years old and had no idea where my life was going. I ran, I did martial arts, I competed in stick-fighting tournaments. I was bumbling along. 10 years later (2001) I had my last hurrah in stick-fighting leading Great Britain to victory at the World Championships; my business was 8 years old and only revolved around martial arts. I was in a stable relationship and we were living as a family bringing up the children and planning for the future. Now I can look back and see twenty years of evolution; to see a man growing up and changing. I’ve made many mistakes and learned from lots of them. I feel I’m aiming in the right direction and understand that although global events effect me they don’t have to hold me back or be the reason for my successes.
Many of the political decisions following 9/11 have been calamitous: 2977 people died that day; since then 7503 servicemen and women have died, along with 919,967 Afghan and Iraqi civilians. That can’t be right, can it? ‘Nevermind’ has sold 30 million albums to date, but Kurt shot himself in 1994 leaving many fans distraught, only for Dave Grohl to rise from the ashes of Nirvana to create the Foo Fighters. In another 10 years we will have all have moved on; change is natural, progression is not. Progression requires work and it requires vision. It also requires bravery and the ability to keep making decisions. I hope our politicians learn from the past (although I’m not ever so hopeful, but do still believe that Obama brings some hope), I can’t wait for the next massive shake up of the music industry (Simon Cowell is clearly not it, although I can’t help admiring the monster he has created) and I will keep learning, keep writing, keep training and trusting that my next 10 years will be my best.