INTRODUCTION TO THE LATEST VERSION: A common question I hear nowadays is, “how did we get here?” By “we,” I largely mean the United States, and by “get here,” I mean the clusterfuck between Trumpism, COVID-19, economic collapse, and so on.
I could say it started back in 2016. I could say it started back in 2012. I could say it started back in in 2008.
I could say those things; and one day, I will get to all that.
But right now, I’m going to lay out for you the groundwork of how It All Started. How the U.S. “became this way.” It’s going to take several parts. And it’s going to be seen through the eyes of yours truly, almost 20 years ago, as I dipped my little pinky-toe into the world of…
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INTRODUCTION TO THE 4/12/19 VERSION: In 2014 a phrase suddenly popped into my head; two words, actually. “Messenger Shiva.” I didn’t know what that meant, exactly, but I put it in my back pocket in case I ever needed a snappy cryptic title for something.
And here we are!
But I’m not sure if what I’m writing here will really be something….bigger. I just want to talk about something that is still a rather “raw” period of my life. A sad period. A weird period. A period from like a few minutes after 9/11 through fall of 2016.
And it starts with the rather odd little synchronicity that I think kind of changed my life…
I. A BAD FEELING
My first introduction to online “conspiracy culture” was several years after 9/11…say, 2005. It started mainly because 9/11 still shook and haunted me. I wasn’t initially looking for any information on the tragic event (or rather, series of events) being a “conspiracy.” I was just simply seeking more information. In a perverse way, I guess I was also actively trying to “relive” it because the trauma it planted was so deep.
I lived in the same house as my sister in 2001. She worked right in the middle of one of the towers. Had she still been working at the WTC at the time of the attack, she most likely would have been killed. But several months before, she suddenly decided to move to Florida. “I just don’t want to be in the City anymore,” she told me. “It just gives me a bad feeling. I’m done with it.”
My family was the type to experience things like “bad feelings” as omens before certain negative happenings. Once when we were teenagers, I suddenly had the desire to stay home rather than go to school that morning with my sister. My mother was furious, but I absolutely refused to leave the house & couldn’t give her a logical reason why.
The girl who ended up standing next to my sister in the yard that morning, waiting for the school doors to open, got shot in the throat by a stray bullet or a sniper. This unfortunate person was standing where I would have been, had I attended school that day. Good call on my part, all things considered. But that was how we all were, my family; perhaps it was a little morbid.
And so my sister left and I stayed. Of course I stayed; I had a job a little north of Midtown overseeing the adventures of the World’s Greatest Heroes; literally, that was my job.
I edited comic books.
II. ALTARED STATES
Did I share any of my sister’s foreboding regarding the terrible events that were soon to unfold? No, not until the very night before.
I had already blew my paranoia wad on Y2K the previous year, patiently waiting for all the computers to fail and the world to end (at the time I vaguely remember some mention in the media of this one guy’s panicked declaration—something akin to Kevin McCarthy at the end of Invasion of the Body Snatchers—that Y2K was going to be the Apocalypse. (That person turned out to be, of course, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones).
Feeling so foolish for being worried over Y2K, I had resolved to stop paying any mind to such fearmongers. But outside of the mild “everyday” hysterics of the mainstream media (“Will possums break into your house and eat you alive? News at 10:00”) and the tabloid headlines at my local bodega, I never really ran into any of the real paranoid stuff.
Though to be honest…I did read a bunch of books before that point that could be categorized as “conspiracy” related. But these were books that touched on topics that had very little immediate relation to my life and my world at that time. Stuff on the JFK assassination, for instance. A couple on UFOs (mostly about “classic” sightings). One on the occult and rock n roll during the 60s and 70s. And stuff like that. Stuff that felt a couple of levels removed from my daily life, so it was almost as if I was reading about a “fantasy.”
But the night before 9/11, I did get a sudden impulse to build a type of “altar” on my dining room table. OK, that sounds nuts, but the context to this is that I was pretty much into metaphysics at that time, so it wouldn’t be that unusual for me to place a few candles on the table with a little statue of the Archangel Michael or Ganesh or a fairy and whatnot.
This, however, wasn’t a little altar. No, that night I pretty much took every crystal, statue, candle, and tchotchke in my apartment and arranged them on my table. I did it with the sort of blind urgency my cat will spontaneously display with some random bits of paper and old stuffed mouses; just deciding this is going to be a thing, making this pile.
And truly…it made me feel safe. It was just a dumb thing, but it kind of made me feel protected.
And then, tired, I went to bed. That next morning, I opened up my front door to gauge the temperature outside; as I did so, one crisp dry brown leaf blew into the vestibule. “Huh,” I thought, stooping to pick up the leaf, “the first dead leaf of Fall.”
Then I crushed the leaf into powder in my hand and went back into my apartment to finish getting ready for work.
III. HYSTERICAL BLINDNESS
The first tower was hit by a plane when I was riding a subway train, on a bridge. The train suddenly halted at the middle of the bridge, sending people stumbling over each other. Soon everybody was pressed up against the windows of the train, making the car tilt slightly, watching the disaster unfold.
Except for me.
I was looking right at the Twin Towers, but couldn’t see any flames or smoke. Don’t get me wrong—I’m not building a theory here that “9/11 never happened” and that it was all “fake news.” I know the tower was hit. People were screaming on the train and mentioning it.
I just couldn’t see it.
The irony is that right before the event, I had been reading a book on the train by Sylvia Browne called Adventures of a Psychic. Some fucking “psychic” I turned out to be. I couldn’t even see one of the biggest events in American history unfold right in front of my face!
And had I known what had happened— had I “seen” it—there would have been no way in hell I would have travelled into Midtown. Wow, what a mistake.
By the time I got to my job, everybody was packed in the conference room watching the second tower get hit. Then the one collapsed, then the other; then everyone quickly dispersed.
By this point, the subways had stopped running. Nobody had any idea if more attacks were coming. Mobs of men and women in business suits held hands and hitched rides on the backs of flatbed trucks—I mean, crazy shit like that.
Nobody knew what the fuck was going on.
One woman I knew from another department grabbed my arm in the conference room and ran with me—ran—20 blocks to her Chelsea apartment.
As we got closer and closer to Downtown, you could see and smell that acrid thick smoke.
I stayed there until the trains ran again. When I finally got home, it was very late.
The crumpled bits of that brown leaf were still lying on the floor of the vestibule. My altar was still there.
IV. THE SYNCHRONICITY
Work re-opened a couple days later. It was then that I—and the rest of my department—realized that one of our comic books featuring scenes that looked almost exactly like 9/11 had hit the stands that week. It was part of a whole “event,” that had just launched over multiple titles, that literally involved all-out war after a series of terrorist attacks.
Editors scrambled to have other issues “pulled” from publication and/or edited to remove the really “9/11” stuff out.
The question of course becomes: how did this coincidence happen?
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INTERLUDE: LITERAL AND QUANTUM THEORIES
A “literal” conspiracy theorist might tell you the images were purposely included in the books, ordered by a powerful cabal, in order to “broadcast” or even “gloat” over their unspeakable plan to cause 9/11. I’ve read and watched theories like this, pointing out countless similar images that were released not only that year but years previous. I’ve even read theories where the images from that particular comic book from my job were used; which was a surreal feeling, believe you me.
But there’s another type of…not so much a “conspiracy” theorist, but rather like a metaphysical or even (the term I like to use) “quantum theorist.”
The quantum theorist doesn’t believe the coincidence was literally engineered by a literal cabal; as concrete acts in the material world.
Instead, he or she would suspect some sort of “quantum” event that linked the minds of the creators of the comic book with a future significant event. And so like: a “prediction,” of sorts.
But not a conscious prediction.
And maybe not necessarily for any particular “reason,” either. It might have just been this spontaneous quantum connection backwards in time between Event and Artist.
On some unconscious level, the people who wrote and drew that comic could have “picked up” the vibes of 9/11 months before it happened—yes, just like my sister probably did.
But how was the actual publishing date of the finished comic coordinated so precisely with 9/11? How did an entire publishing event get “timed” with 9/11? That’s a whole other level of quantum arrangement itself!
Of course, if you are a conspiracy literalist, your conclusion would be that the “cabal” arranged the entire thing. You would also conclude that the storyline in an episode of the X-Files spinoff The Lone Gunmen, which aired a few months before 9/11 and featured a similar “plot,” was also meticulously “planned”—something conspiracy literalists like to call, “predictive programming.”
But a conspiracy literalist might also say that perhaps in the case of the Lone Gunmen episode, an “insider” (series creator Chris Carter, perhaps) heard of the 9/11 “plot” through cabal circles, and including such details in the show itself was a type of “warning.” I’ve definitely read that theory.
To the quantum theorist, all these coincidences—synchronicities—can also be warnings, in a way. But exactly who is “orchestrating” those warnings—an entity, a collective mind, VALIS, something beyond any understanding, perhaps—is a mystery.
Quantum theorists are OK if they don’t understand all the reasons why, if some details are left vague and paradoxical.
Literal theorists, on the other hand, HATE that. For them, everything must be neatly tied up into a metatheory.
Of course, any sane person knows that there are no meaningful coincidences…no quantum occurrences (physicists be damned)…no such thing as souls, or a “Creator,” or anything like that. Certainly no such thing as “predictions,” or miracles, or…anything but the cold, hard world we plant our feet upon, run by money and instinctual animal impulses papered over with a schmear of civility. Everybody knows that.
Everybody knows that. It’s self-evident. It runs like a clock.
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I found that first day back at work really difficult. Most of us did, I think. I mean…obviously.
The city felt and even smelled like death. Paranoia was thick—what was that noise? Who is that suspicious person? What is that in the sky???
One of the floors I worked on had a wraparound mural that depicted a realistic (“life size”) tableau of a destroyed Metropolis; you know, crushed buildings, a fallen Daily Planet, and general urban destruction. That mural was in the process of being painted over that day back, as to not remind everyone of what had just happened a few days earlier. Painted over, for “good taste.”
A little over a decade after that—after America hardened and became meaner, gearing up to get even meaner still—a movie about Superman would have no problem showing the destruction of Metropolis in all its gory detail. “Good taste” was a PC affectation for “snowflakes” who were better off dead—DIAF, perhaps, or driven to suicide by revenge porn or a series of texts egging them on.
But I get ahead of myself.
I took a week off after that day back. Went to the beach, in a family home on Cape Cod. All along the way there—in state after state—American flags flew proudly in front of homes. I just stared out the car window and wondered if we were going to enter a new war—and if so, would there be a draft? And would my brother (who was right at that age) be drafted?
What the fuck was going on? What the fuck just happened?
CNN was covering the aftermath of the event for…what, weeks? Months? It was the first time I really consumed that much TV news on a regular basis. I consumed it as if it was a matter of life and death for me; as if the news would have some vital information that might just save my life or something.
I didn’t really use the Internet for news back then. I used it for like…reading fan-fiction.
Mostly fan-fiction. And eBay. You know, for my superhero collectibles.
But a few years later I would be glued to message boards. Because at that time, I still didn’t feel I knew what the fuck just happened. I didn’t feel any safer, with our color-coded threat level system and our new wars.
And I still didn’t feel I knew 100% what had happened with 9/11. Something just felt…incomplete.
My personal and professional life wasn’t going too well at that time, either. My health was shit too. In a way, my quest for answers with 9/11 was really an overall quest just to figure out how life ended up sucking so bad.(<–I realize how on the nose that is, but I just needed to get it out of the way)
And I would find that there would be no shortage of people and organizations willing to give me their “take” on it.