ARCHIVED POST: Newspaper milestones, straws to clutch at, and finding hope and shouting fucking loudly about it.

(This is an archived post moved here from my old blog, originally published 14th March 2011)

Today I bought The Times – I rarely buy newspapers, in fact, I only really do when there’s something really significant on the front page. I take them home, well-thumbed and read on the tube, the ink slightly worn off on my fingers, and pack them away safely in a box.

I can pinpoint this habit back to a specific date – 12th of September 2001. I remember the front page clearly: vivid, almost obscenely blue sky; two stark white lines; a smudge of black smoke; balls of bright fire. Moments before the World Trade Center towers collapsed. I was almost 17, had just moved school, was blissfully unaware of my naivety. But this – this was too big a thing. The other day I sat around with some friends, nearly ten years on, and the conversation somehow turned to that day. It’s almost a cliche, but everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing on that day. It’s a milestone now, a Before and After. No one, no matter how young, could fail to see how utterly and completely world-changing that day was.

So I bought a newspaper. And it wasn’t just the covers I wanted to keep, the terrifying headlines or the shocking images – I wanted the whole papers. I wanted to look back in years to come and see all the many mundane trivialities we concerned ourselves with on the days that rocked the world off its axis, for just a moment. The way that we were still talking about the latest film reviews or the celebrity gossip when the little path we’re blazing as a species is shunted sideways, in the blink of an eye, changing everything.

So there they sit, these paper records: dictators and towers and cities toppled, men rescued from deep under ground, new leaders elected, economies slumped, earth shifting and ash-clouds. A little while ago I was clearing out my old room at home and came across those papers, now all packed and sealed in a box that I left my parents with strict instructions to stash in the attic.
Folded and piled neatly next to old birthday cards, my exam results, diaries, letters from friends – little transient things that never seem to lose their significance over time. There’s something fascinating in the complete paradox: the fragility of the paper and ink, and the permanence of the stories they tell.

So today’s Times will go into the box, and some day I know I’ll look back on it and realise how the events that began last friday off the coast of Japan sent aftershocks rippling into the years to come. My only real wish is that, over the years, I will be able to add to this odd collection with happier headlines.

I feel on the brink of being drowned by this tsunami of terrible images, body-counts and lives utterly devastated – I hope that somehow we can rise as a species, rise all over the world and pull ourselves out of this swamping desolation. I know there’s so much we can do, so much we can achieve – incredible things. But they’re never as loud or as insistent as the tragedies, and this needs to change. We need to get over our rubber-necking morbid fascination and shout – really fucking loud – about all the wonderful things people do for each other and for the world we live in every day.

And with that, I’ll finish with a link that I’ve found and has made me smile, just a little. Small miracles amid the carnage, from the Brisbane Times. Read to bolster your ever dwindling hope reserves. If anyone is reading this and finds similarly hopeful links please do feel free to post and share here – clutch at enough straws and we might just make it through.
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