I sometimes wonder if 9/11 was indirectly responsible for my comic book career. It sounds strange and I absolutely mean no disrespect to any of the people who lost loved ones in the tragedy. But it’s hard not to acknowledge the fact that my life may have been completely different if not for 9/11.
At the time of the attack, I was working for a company called JPI Design, which was an entertainment design and architecture firm in Ontario, California. I was their staff writer, responsible for drafting up everything from press releases to trade articles to scripts for the various theme park rides and attractions they developed. It was a very different job to what I’m doing now, but I enjoyed it and found it very creatively fulfilling. Plus, I enjoyed the industry. There was a lot of passion in it, similar to what I’ve found in comics.
JPI Design was a very small company, but their star seemed to be on the rise. They were in the early design stages for several large, international resorts and theme parks, and I was busy in the days leading up to 9/11 working on proposals and written narratives to help sell the projects to investors.
And then the attack happened and everything changed.
It felt like the whole nation spent about a week in shock. No work was done because all of it suddenly seemed insignificant and unimportant. People were grieving and asking questions, and I was no different. When people began picking themselves up and going back to work, everything had changed. Nothing felt the same, but the impact of 9/11 on the industry I was working in was extreme. No one was traveling after the attacks. Security at the airports was intense, but also, the simple fact was that no one was in the mood for riding roller coasters and getting splashed on log rides after we’d just unexpectedly and violently been robbed of thousands of American lives. Theme parks and resorts seemed so frivolous and at odds with the mood of our nation and much of the world. Leisure and entertainment projects were shelved. All of those large developments JPI was working on disappeared and the company was left without a source of income. They managed to hold on for a little while, but they were soon unable to make payroll and went under. In the end, they were yet another victim of 9/11.
Fortunately, I was given the opportunity to freelance edit manga titles at Tokyopop before that happened, and while I loved what I was doing at JPI and hated to leave the company, it was clear where things were headed. Accepting the Tokyopop offer was an easy decision to make.
If you know anything about me, you know what happened next. I really took to editing manga and eventually wound up with a full-time position at Tokyopop, which opened the door to the career I have now. But occasionally, I have to wonder about what would have happened had 9/11 not occurred and those big projects JPI had in the pipeline had all moved forward. I would have had no reason to leave them and may have built up a career scripting shows and attractions instead.
Yes, it’s true that 9/11 changed everything. Our country isn’t the same place it was before 2001. But not every change was far-reaching. Many, if not most, of the changes were on the individual level for millions of Americans. The most direct—the loss of loved ones—were tragic and painful, but strangely enough, some of the less direct changes may have been positive. Certainly, I’m not defending the terrorist act or suggesting that we’re better off as a result. Don’t misunderstand me. It was a tragedy and I think if any of us had the power to undo it, we would. But in an unexpected way, the tragedy eventually brought me to something good. Like everyone else, I picked myself up, rebuilt and I’m better and happier as a result. And if that’s not a sign of resilience, I’m not sure what is.
Things aren’t good out there right now. We’re on the brink of a second recession and the job market is terrible. Millions of people are out of work and wondering how much longer they can stay afloat…if they haven’t already sunk beneath the weight of debt. People have been affected by storms, earthquakes, drought and there are millions of people out there in the world who still hate us and mean us harm… It’s been a tough year. But we’ve survived tougher, and often in the end, we emerge better than we were before. Stronger.
It’s a message from 9/11 that I think is well worth heeding right now.