Five Years Later, Part 2: Blurring the Line Between Movies and Reality

Squeezed September 11, 2006

This excerpted entry was originally written on September 12, 2001. The kinesthetic side of me just had to get its hands around the whole thing, so what follows in this entry may seem kinda disturbing but was part of my dealing with the whole disaster. Apparently, though, I wasn’t alone.

Well, the U.S. is still standing. That’s good. The mood is still somber and the radio, until later this evening, was still in continuous special-report mode. Now that I’m writing this, broadcasting has returned to a state of normalcy. That’s a good sign.

Of course, that might change once we find out how many people are entombed in the WTC. […]

No one in the nation could possibly have imagined something like this happening in real life. I’m sure that many of us felt that this something that we only see in movies. In action movies we see bombs go off in buildings, airports hijacked, airplanes crash, and we get so caught up in the story that we suspend disbelief. Though intellectually we know that the movie employs green-screen photography and miniatures, we are awed by the spectacle.

So when we actually run into a situation where life imitates art in a way we could never imagine, some of us may act inappropriately. We shouldn’t fault people for thinking this way. In the movies, we watch buildings burn from a safe distance and know that no one was harmed. Hollywood has conditioned us to react a certain way to things like this…so when a big disaster happens…sometimes we don’t think that it’s real.

And speaking of things that aren’t real…morbid curiosity got the best of me. So when I got home, I fired up MS Flight Simulator, put myself behind the wheel of a Boeing 777, and tried to recreate the fateful flight of American 11. (Yes, the actual plane was a 767, but I didn’t have one in my aircraft library. Details, details, details.)

I left Boston, turned west, then when I got to New York state, turned south toward the Big Apple. Once on the north end of Manhattan, I took my joystick, located the towers of the World Trade Center, took the plane off autopilot, took aim, and flew it right into the side.

Bulls-eye.

The only problem was that there was no ka-boom. All I heard was dead silence, and I saw “BUILDING CRASH.” That’s all. I guess we have to leave that to the imagination, I guess. But I guess after seeing all that footage of the planes hitting the World Trade Center, again and again and again, I just had to get it out my system. Yes, it’s a strange way to deal with it, but, the catharsis is worth it.

Some things should have remained simulated. This is one of them. You can crash your simulated plane into your simulated World Trade Center again and again and not harm a soul. I only wish the terrorists realized this.

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