Now There Comes A Darker Day
By Lee Walker
From Issue 54, Winter 2001
I guess in the years that (hopefully) lie ahead,
everyone will be able to recall precisely where
they were when they first heard the news of the
terrible tragedy that befell the United States.
For me, the horror began while I was round at
my brother's house, having taken the afternoon
off to get into town early for the Liverpool -
Boavista Champions League match at Anfield. It
was our first game proper in the European Cup
since the dreadful events at Heysel in 1985, and
we were hoping to meet up with some Portuguese
fans around Matthew Street to swap scarves, have
a few drinks and indulge in a bit of banter. God,
how incredibly trite that all sounds now.
Just before we left our Grant's house, he dug
out a video of The Foo Fighters at this year's
Reading Festival, and accidentally pressed BBC
1 on the remote. And I trembled at the impossibility
of the image that suddenly filled the screen.
The twin towers of the World Trade Centre, instantly
recognisable from countless movies and TV programmes,
were ablaze, smoke billowing like a cloud of blowflies
totally obscuring the sun. The newscaster was
babbling so excitedly, it was difficult to make
sense of what he was trying to say. But if the
live commentary was difficult to understand, the
text running across the bottom of the screen made
it all too clear what had happened: "Two
planes have crashed into the World Trade Centre.
The FBI have confirmed that this is the result
of a terrorist attack. It is feared that there
will be many casualties".
The words began to blur as I felt the hot, slithery
sting of tears under my eyelids, and I hoarsely
begged my brother to turn off the TV. It seems
strange, looking back now, but I was suddenly
anxious to get out of the house, to step into
the fresh air, to set off for a match as we'd
arranged. It was almost as if by refusing to acknowledge
something awful beyond words had occurred, I could
deprive it of its reality. The tactic proved so
effective that by the time we'd got to James Street
I'd all but managed to convince myself that maybe
things weren't quite as bad as they'd first seemed.
A few seconds after stepping into the 'White Star'
I found I was one hundred percent correct. Things
weren't as bad - they were a thousand times worse.
I guess I should have realised as much the moment
Grant and I stepped into the bar and were hit
by a wall of caught-breath silence. The pub was
fairly packed with men and women of all ages,
and ordinarily the air would have been thick with
conversation. But not here. Not on this afternoon.
Instead, the only sounds were the squeak of the
hand pumps, the refilling of glasses and the sombre
voice of the CNN anchorman as he confirmed that
a third passenger plane had hit the Pentagon,
causing extensive damage and serious loss of life.
"Jesus Christ, is this really happenin' or
is it some kind of wind-up?" a middle-aged
man murmured incredulously as I half-whispered
a couple of drinks in.
I didn't bother answering. We both knew, despite
surreality of the pictures beamed live from across
the Atlantic, this was no trailer from some big
Hollywood blockbuster. This was not an attack
led by 15-mile wide alien spaceships, or deadly
shards of an ELE meteorite. It wasn't the destructive
rampage of a 50-foot ape or a 400-foot high, fire
breathing lizard. It wasn't even an ex-cop shouting
"yippe-kay-ay, motherfucker" as he dodges
the spectacular explosions and single-handedly
defeats the terrorists.
And if we needed proof that this was no celluloid
fantasy, it was proven in spades when first one,
then the other tower came crashing to the ground
in a thick, choking cloud of dust and I was struck
by the impression of a sickly grey shadow falling
across the surface of some bright shining dream.
"You know what, Eddie, I'm not one for making
predictions" an owld fella in cloth cap shouted
across to his mate (I sighed wearily, knowing
full well that this was the prelude to a prediction)
"but I wouldn't put it past that balloon
in the White House to declare World War Three
after this". "Better get the ale in
quick, then" replied Eddie, sparking a ripple
of nervous laughter.
I laughed too, but it caught fast in my throat
when I found myself staring at the row of paintings
that hung on the far wall. Each one featured a
huge ocean liner ploughing a path across turbulent
seas, the 'White Star' banner (that gave this
pub its name) fluttering proudly from every masthead.
Foremost among them was the most famous liner
of all, the Titanic, and the sight of that magnificent
but ultimately doomed vessel sailing unawares
towards its date with destiny caused a whole slew
of nasty coincidences to go swirling through my
mind at a sickening speed.
We could have been standing in any pub, but for
some reason we'd chosen the White Star. There
was the picture of the Titanic leaving Southampton
water bound for, of all places, New York (and,
incidentally, almost colliding with another liner,
'New York', as she did so). The date disaster
struck the Titanic was April15th, eerily the exact
same date as another TV-relayed tragedy in Sheffield
(a nightmare experience from which my brother
and I had emerged as very lucky survivors). The
fact that now, as then, we'd set out on a gloriously
sunny day with the intention of supporting Liverpool
FC in an 'important' football match, but had wound
up instead being confronted with scenes of unimaginable
Perhaps, most poignantly of all, a line of dialogue
that was cut from James Cameron's 1998 movie.
At the film's conclusion, old Rose was supposed
to have admonished the entrepreneurial Brock:
"There's another iceberg out there, Mr Lovett.
I don't know what it is, but I do know the force
driving us towards it". On September 11th,
in the space of a single Godforsaken afternoon,
I guess we finally got to see both the shape of
the 'iceberg' and the fanatical driving 'force'
behind it, too.
We left the White Star a little after 3.30, just
as news began to filter through that another hijacked
plane was rumoured to be heading for Camp David.
The US Air Force had been given orders to shoot
down any suspect aircraft and, in the tinderbox
of the Middle East, Israel had put its forces
on the highest possible state of alert. We'd been
sure we could find some sort of 'refuge' in "Flanagan's",
but we were to be sorely mistaken. Once again
the pub was packed, but not with the usual noisy,
colourful array of both local and out-of-town
Liverpool fans mixed with a healthy smattering
of foreign supporters. There were some people
who were obviously going to the match, sure, but
they stood mutely amidst the crowds of shoppers,
office workers and the general public staring
at the huge screen that illuminated the dingy,
wooden-floorboarded bar room. The systematic destruction
of the twin towers was replayed over and over
again, one hopes for the benefit of those who'd
come late and hadn't yet witnessed the shocking
sequence of events rather than to seek to exploit
the horror as a means of ensuring good viewing
figures (surely not? - ed).
The surround sound speakers, which normally blast
out Irish folk music, instead amplified the words
of the newscasters, the discordant screaming of
emergency vehicles and the wracked sobs of those
searching desperately for their loved ones. The
only time that the speakers were drowned out was
during the awed chorus of "aaaah"s (a
sound reminiscent of children watching a fireworks
display) every time Sky News showed the second
plane crashing into the side of the South Tower.
I'd like to think that the anti-American murmurs
and comments I overheard in 'Flanagan's' from
certain individuals were the result of a few too
many pints of Guinness and the less-than-comforting
performance of George Dubya when giving his initial
response to the attack ("We're gonna track
down the folks who did this", indeed). There's
no doubt that the US President, the leader of
the most powerful nation on earth, faced with
its gravest crisis since Pearl Harbour, displayed
all the charisma of a rusty can on a rain-swept
beach. I'm not sure even that can excuse the spiteful
words of two boneheads in their early 30's who
stood within earshot of me and our kid: "I
reckon the Yanks deserve it, look what they did
to Belgrade and
Grenada" "Yeah, and what they're still
doing to Iraq" "Maybe they won't be
quite so handy supporting the IRA" "Is
right, lad". So saying, they lifted their
glasses as though they were toasting the unveiling
of some great immutable truth, and whilst I can
never claim to be any great supporter of American
foreign policy (it "sucks big time"
as they would so charmingly put it) to voice such
sentiments when thousands of men, women and children
had met their deaths displayed a lack of compassion
that does not bode well for the future of humanity.
Sickened, we downed our pints and made our way
over to probably the only pub in town without
a TV. The Grapes is one of those classic Liverpool
alehouses that probably hasn't changed one jot
in a hundred years or more. Aside from a barmaid's
insistence that "yer can only come in if
yer avent gorrany bombs on yer" there were
no further references to what was happening in
America. It was a kind of bliss to be able to
sit beneath the gaudy portrait of Spring Heeled
Jack (cackling wildly as he leapt across the rooftops
of the terraced houses on William Henry Street,
where my Granddad used to live) and listening
to The Beatles playing over and over again on
the news-free speakers.
I think it's fair to say that I would have quite
happily sat there till closing time, getting rotten
drunk, stumbling home and phoning in sick for
work tomorrow morning. It was only the thought
of letting my mate Graham and my other brother,
Dale, down that prevented me from doing just that.
They'd forked out for the match tickets, and we'd
arranged to meet them in the Albert. We couldn't
just not turn up. Nevertheless, it took a supreme
effort of will to force myself out into the street
to hail a cab to take us to Anfield. The conversation
in the taxi was virtually non-existent. The radio
was playing sad songs only, the mood was as sombre
as if we were heading for a funeral.
I remember as we drove along the top of Everton
Brow, I looked at the Liverpool waterfront. It
was just coming down dusk and the sunset was that
achingly beautiful balance of stillness in which
the sun seems to hover like a red balloon. And
as it finally disappeared from sight behind a
block of flats, I was reminded of the impermanence
of things. Nothing lasts. Even that which we value
most and pray for would not last forever.
You may not be surprised to hear that the match
itself bore all the relevance of a half-arsed
cabaret show at the end of a seemingly endless
day. The minute silence was perfectly observed,
but both the atmosphere and the Liverpool performance
were understandably flat. For the record, the
match ended in a 1-1 draw but to be honest the
ITV commentator that evening summed up the mood
perfectly. He said, after the minute silence,
"On a frightening day for the world, there
follows a football match". I had tried to
tell myself that attending the game might prove
to be somewhat cathartic but in the event I left
the ground feeling as though all the bright lights
of the world had been dimmed. And it was going
to take a lot more than a mere game of footy to
This is part of a much longer article that Lee
wrote for his own magazine DEAD OF NIGHT, "Merseyside's
Premier Publication Dealing with ALL Paranormal
Phenomena!!!". The article went on to describe
the tabloids' coverage of the tragedy, and in
particular that ghoulish (fake?) picture the 'Mirror'
used of the 'face' in the World Trade Centre smoke,
but you should buy it yourself and read in full
an excellent piece of work. It's from the 'Halloween'
Dead of Night is thoroughly comprehensive, as
Lee picks out all the weird stuff from a wide
selection of newspapers and magazines, added to
his own writing and that of several contributors.
£2 for 80-odd pages, it's a cracking mag
and always thought provoking even for those of
a sceptical frame of mind. Lee's Red allegiance
comes through, especially when referring to the
'Daily Slur' or the 'Daily Manc'! Being a trivial
sort, my favourite sections are "The Cosmic
Joker Strikes Again" and "Another Batch
of Hopeless Crime" which always give me a
good laugh. If it's strange and it's been in the
news, DON will have it and will save you wading
through all the trivial crap in the papers! For
£2, that's more than a bargain, it's a public
service. Send £2.50 (that'll include postage)
DEAD OF NIGHT,156, BOLTON ROAD EAST,NEW FERRY,MERSEYSIDE,
(actually it's probably all "Wirral"
now but that's what Lee's put in the mag)
or call him on 0151 644 7095.