On August 16, 2001, I stood with my stepbrother and tens of thousands of people in Liberty State Park on Upper New York Bay in Jersey City with a beautiful view of Lower Manhattan. I was twenty-one years old, had recently graduated from college, and would be on my way in a couple of weeks to start graduate school in England. I was on a last hoorah vacation—more of a pilgrimage, really—and we had reached our goal: seeing our favorite band, Radiohead, on one of the last dates of their American tour in support of their turn-of-the-millennium experimental masterpieces Kid A and Amnesiac.
The band played a marathon set, including two encores, with songs full of paranoia about modern life—songs which, even then, gave me the sense that the world I had always known was not going to last much longer. The show began with the eerie track “National Anthem,” which declares, “Everyone is so near. Everyone has got the fear. It’s holding on.” Looming above the stage just on the other side of the mouth of the Hudson River were the two towers of the World Trade Center, each soaring well over 1,000 feet high.
They would be destroyed less than a month later.