September 11th: Ten Years with Erik Lundegaard
All this month, the New Yorker has been asking the following 9/11-related questions of its writers and editors. I thought I'd give it a go.
Notes on Washington and the world
9/11: TEN YEARS
For the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, we asked New Yorker contributors to look back on how their work, and their lives, were changed. Here are Erik Lundegaard’s answers.
1. What were you thinking about, or working on, the day the attacks occurred?
I was visiting my sister in Detroit, thinking about the Tigers game we were going to that evening and my upcoming planetrip home to Seattle the next day, while reading Mitch Albom in The Detroit Free-Press in the breakfast nook of my sister's house. Then my brother-in-law, Eric, who had just left for work, stuck his head back in the door. “You might want to turn on CNN,” he said. “A plane just flew into the World Trade Center.”
2. Did 9/11 change your work plans?
At the time I worked at Microsoft, Xbox, “NFL Fever,” and 9/11 didn't change anything there. We were worried about sev 1 bugs not al Qaeda. But we did get security badges and parking passes. The folks at Microsoft were suddenly serious about security. For a few years anyway. Then not. You still see those parking passes on the rearview mirrors of cars all over Seattle: That person works at Microsoft, so does that one, so does that one ... They're like tags; there's nothing secure about them at all.
3. Are there places you’ve gone, or people you’ve met, that you wouldn’t have if not for 9/11? Are you different than you might have been?
I stayed in Detroit a few days longer than scheduled but otherwise “no” to the first question. “Of course” to the second question. I became disappointed in my country more than I would have otherwise. I've thought about issues of freedom vs. security more than I would have otherwise. A few years ago, I interviewed a San Francisco civil rights lawyer, Robert Rubin, and when I brought up the freedom vs. security issue he said the following, which has always stayed with me: “You see these studies saying people are ready to sacrifice personal liberties for security. It’s a false dichotomy. ‘Sure, I’ll trade your personal liberties for my security.’ No, are you willing to give up your rights? ‘His rights. I’ll give up his rights.’”
4. Is New York a different city for you now?
I have deeper feelings for it. Still hate the Yankees, though.
5. Is there one image or scene that evokes that day for you?
The plane striking the second tower. Over and over again.
6. What piece of work to emerge from 9/11 has stayed with you the most?
I recently read Lawrence Wright's “The Looming Tower,” which is deep and necessary history. I thought Paul Greengrass's “United 93” the best movie of 2006. But I'd have to go with “Man on Wire,” the 2008 documentary about Philippe Petit, the French funambule, and his high-wire act across the World Trade towers in 1974, which probably wouldn't have been made without 9/11. That's stayed with me. The doc and the image from the poster. The bravery and artistry in that act and that image. The celebration.