In Vancouver, BC — thousands of miles from Ground Zero, the Pentagon and a field in Stoneycreek Township — you couldn't see any outward sign that something unusual had happened on the morning of September 11, 2001.
Except for one thing. The sky was empty. Nothing flying in or out of YVR, no contrails far overhead threading their way to Asia. I thought that day of Jane Siberry's song "One More Colour", and how her stream of beautiful, peaceful imagery culminated in "the speckless sky"... which was suddenly one of the scariest things I had ever seen.
For days afterward, I looked up to that sky with fear, wondering when the next attack — the one that media commentators kept warning was quite likely — would come, and whether people I loved might be the next targets.
I also turned to the Web. I had begun blogging that spring, and following the emerging political blogosphere quite a while before that. And as deserved as blogging's reputation for hyperventilation might be at times, this was where I first saw widespread signs of people getting a larger sense of perspective.
For months after 9/11, bloggers led much of the mainstream media in putting the attacks into some kind of context — which, for me, meant asking questions about the headlong rush toward security at the expense of civil liberties, human rights and, at times, basic decency. I know that for many ReadWriteWeb readers, it meant something different, even diametrically opposed — but where many of us have common ground is that we first found that perspective (and I hope some competing ones as well) in the social web.
I'm thinking today of how the conversations I had back then, online and offline, helped me to distinguish between terrors that are largely fantasy, and the fears and dangers that are all too real. The social web helped me to find my own new normal.