Today marks the 1oth anniversary of the horrific events that happened in the United States of America on the 11th of September 2001. Today marks the day the world changed.
I was in the States, staying with relatives in Atlanta, Georgia. I remember going to my uncle’s clinic with my Tita Lettie and switching on the TV in the patients’ waiting area. The TV was perennially on the FOX news channel (I remember vaguely that someone was addicted to Bill O’Reilly’s show but can’t rightly remember if it was something on telly or something on the radio). We’d just arrived at the clinic and were prepping for the arrival of the patients that my uncle was seeing that day (I was helping my aunt with updating their patient records at the time and putting them all into a patients’ database).
We always arrived before 9am but I think that day we’d just been a little late and got there at 9AM. There was a strange stillness in the air. There was something wrong, but I couldn’t really put my finger on it. So I just brushed that feeling away and got to pulling out the records that I told myself I’d encode that day. The telly was switched on because the lady who worked with the doctor we shared the clinic with had arrived early. And for some reason, no one had been waiting in the waiting room except for a lady and her daughter.
There was a loud gasp from the lady waiting in the reception area and a series of “Oh my Gods”. Everyone rushed to view the TV. I don’t even remember whether it was live footage or amateur video of the first plane crashing into the North Tower. It just so surreal. I was seeing it on TV and there was commentary from the news reader. But I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Apparently, American Airlines Flight 11 had crashed into the North Tower just before 9AM. Then there was breaking news. It was live footage. United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the South Tower. It was sickening and horrifying at the same time. It was like one of those disaster movies you could see on the Hallmark Channel where human spirit triumphs over disaster. Only this was real and this was happening. Then the news started coming hard and fast. The plane crashed into the Pentagon. Then United 93 crashed in Pennsylvania
I can’t remember exactly what happened next at the clinic. Everything else was blur. But I remember going home because I think we had decided that no one was coming to the clinic that day, because everyone was glued to the news. I don’t think we could’ve worked really, we were hanging on to every new news tidbit. We went home and just sat in front of the telly, watching the news updates.
I remember my aunt trying to get in touch with my cousin who was in New Jersey on business and her son-in-law, my cousin’s husband, who was in New York. I know that my aunt was trying to be calm because we couldn’t get through. I don’t think any of the phones in New York or in the surrounding areas were working at the time. There was an underlying franticness in the air, but it was an unspoken one. I don’t think we voiced our worry for fear of it coming true. We eventually got through and I know that relief blanketed us for the rest of the afternoon.
Life changed in America after that. People were afraid of people. People looked at each other suspicion. There were a lot of snap judgements made in the days following everything that happened on September 11, 2001. It was so staggering that a coordinated attack on the US would be so successful and so completely undetected. People were afraid because if they could do it to the States, they could do it anywhere.
I remember having to open my luggage when I travelled home in February. If they were lenient at airports before, they were understandably diligent then. Everyone was inspected. All giftwrapped items were unwrapped, and opened and checked. It was tedious and protracted, but you knew why. It was because someone had decided to attack the US, so send a message of terror.
September 11 was horrific. But it demonstrated the indomitable human spirit. People, strangers, bonded on that horrific day. Heroes were made. People found the courage to step up and do amazing things. People unselfishly gave their lives to help their fellowmen. And what’s important is that people all over the world woke up. Everyone realised that national safety wasn’t just a government responsibility. People realised that to safeguard one’s country, it was everyone’s responsibility. That we all had to be vigilant.
September 11 woke everyone up. Not just to the threat of terrorism. Not just to how important it was to be vigilant about national safety. September 11 reminded people of the value of people and the value of life and the value of family and loved ones. It reawakened people’s faith, in their God, in human beings, and in basic human kindness. September 11 has underlined the importance of living each day of one’s life to the fullest.
As someone in the memorial services has put today, we don’t know what the full legacy of September 11 is. But I’d like to believe that the world changed, for the better after September 11.
We should never forget.
Twin Towers – http://www.elisabethchannels.com