I remember exactly where I was when I heard about 9/11: in bed, asleep, until the ringing phone woke me up. It was my dad. "Bad news, kid," he started. "Someone just flew a plane into the World Trade Center."
At that point it was only a horrific accident. As I woke up it got much, much worse and people came to realize that it had been no accident.
But it was very surreal for me. It was another gorgeous day in California. New York was a world away. While my dad ended up spending the day trying to get out of Manhattan by bus and by foot, in California everything was exactly normal. Completely calm, sunny, perfect. And essentially untouched by the tragedy.
There were certain ways it was touched, of course. Some of the flights, for instance, were to the Bay Area. But in the days that followed the news almost seemed to try to manufacture connections, to manufacture injuries to the local community. Normally I would regard such efforts cynically, but here, in the face of a tragedy of such magnitude whose scope could only be imagined - and barely, at that - people needed to have their own injuries to salve in order to feel as connected to the event as they felt they really should.
There is something though about California - isolated, beautiful, unique, and in some ways completely naive and unspoiled - which makes being detatched from these tragedies even more disorienting than I think it would be anywhere else. I was in California when Spain was attacked and now I'm here with London. And it still feels like it all took place on another world.