I know that I promised an installment on the history of computer games, but I’m afraid that will have to wait another couple of weeks. Instead, I’m going to try to make sense of the horrifying events that have occurred today.
I was mailing off a panel interest form to WorldFantasyCon when I heard the news. The person at the post office had CNN on in the back room, and as I came in, I heard him talking about how the second tower had just collapsed. When he told me that the World Trade Center had just been destroyed and the Pentagon had been attacked, that tens of thousands of people were now dead, I didn’t believe him. I smiled and said, “You’re joking.”
He wasn’t. It is now 12:10 PM EST, I have CNN on in the background as I write, and I’ve had it on since about 10:15. Even walking home, I didn’t want to believe it. But sane people don’t joke about this sort of thing. I couldn’t even wrap my mind around the big picture; suddenly, all I could think about was the safety of my editor at Pocket Books.
Now I’ve seen the footage, my dear readers. I’ve seen the second airplane careen into the tower and both towers collapse, taking thousands of people with them. I’ve been fighting a wave of nausea since I heard the news.
Suddenly, so much of what I write about seems pointless and insignificant. Even my dispute with VerticalScope, a matter that has occupied most of my time over the last few days, pales to nothingness beside it.
I know that most of you view me as somebody with a great deal of wisdom. I’m afraid I have precious little to offer here. It is all too big, too inconceivable. I keep expecting to wake up and find out it was all a nightmare. Tens of thousands of innocent lives ended between me checking my email and heading off to post a letter this morning.
Well, I will try to make some sense of it. Maybe in the process, I can provide some small comfort for all of us.
Tom Clancy was on earlier, saying that this was the work of a group of madmen. Whatever it was, it took co-ordination. In one blow, the financial center of the East Coast was knocked out, and part of the Pentagon was destroyed. The borders have been closed, the airports shut down. But Clancy is right; this is the act of a group of madmen. People willing to commit suicide in this way are rare.
Ironically, I was reading an article this weekend about psychopaths. People who are disconnected from their conscience, who don’t truly understand emotion, and who are singularly inexplicable. Could this be the act of somebody like that? If it is, then it will be almost impossible to truly explain their thought processes. As human beings, we all except that an action has some meaning; even Thomas Harris, when he wrote Hannibal, gave Hannibal Lecter a background including a sister murdered and eaten by Nazis. But most real psychopaths don’t fit into a nice neat explanation. To a degree, at least according to the article, their brains are just wired different.
I remember a scene from a movie titled 8MM. At the very end, after Nicholas Cage’s character finds the murderer in question, the killer says something to the effect of: “I wish I could say that I was abused as a child, or that I had an unhappy life, but I can’t. I just like killing.”
I think this sort of mentality might play a role, but even then it is still inexplicable. This was a terrorist act, albeit one that is, for all intents and purposes, an act of war. Somebody hated the United States enough to do this.
But what has the United States done that could possibly justify this course of action? This was not an attack solely against a military target, but instead against innocent civilians. Forty thousand people worked in the World Trade Center, and God only knows how many had arrived for work this morning when the first plane came. Yet in some insane mind, this was a just act. And if this was the result of a Jyhad against the west, then thousands of people just died over the spelling of the name of God. I can only hope that the people responsible will be brought to justice.
My heart goes out for all the victims, for my editor, who hopefully has not been hurt, and to all of the people in mourning, trying desperately to make sense of the matter. Most of all, however, I fear for the future. This was an act of war, make no mistake. I have little doubt that we have all witnessed the beginning of the next great war, although I pray that I am mistaken on that.
I can barely express my dismay at it all. When something like this happens, it touches the lives of everybody who even hears about it. It sends our futures careening into terra incognita, and instead of the hindsight that allows us to make sense of these things, we are forced to face what is to come with our eyes shut rather than open.
In the background, the recriminations have already begun. One congressman or senator (I can’t remember which), has said that this happened because America became lazy. Others are blaming the Palestinians, or the Taliban.
Well, it’s now 1:10 PM by my computer clock. History is still unfolding, and no doubt all of our lives have just changed. I wish I could say that it will all be okay in the end, that the terrorists responsible will be brought to justice, but I just don’t know. All I know is that the repercussions of this day will probably last for years, and that, whether we like it or not, the twenty-first century has just been baptized in fire and blood.
Next installment: Coming of Age, in which your brave and noble author examines how the computer game industry has matured over the years.
Garwulf’s Corner was written from 2000-2002, by Robert Marks and published on Diabloii.net. Garwulf’s Corner covered gaming culture, fantasy literature, computers, and more. Robert Marks was also the author of Demonsbane, a work in the Diablo series of novels published by Blizzard Entertainment.