Well what else are you going to talk about on September 11th?
I want to get stories from everyone on where they were that day and maybe some reflection on what it means ten years on.
I was living in England at the time so for me it happened at 2:00 in the afternoon. I know for most people on the west coast they woke up to it already happening.
I was watching something boring on TV (there’s only 4 channels in England so you often end up watching something boring…) and the show ended with this stiff English lady saying “we go now to the news where it seems a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center.” But she said it with the tone of someone who was introducing a story about the world’s largest wheel of cheese or a rollerskating cat. So my thought was that some disgruntled ex-employee had flown a Cessna into their old office building as a last desperate revenge.
But then they cut to the images of the two towers on fire. I was looking at them and trying to figure out how one plane had struck both the towers when an announcer came on and said that it was now confirmed that two planes had struck the two towers and I instantly knew it was an attack.
I continued watching right up until the point where the first tower came down. I remember standing in my living room and putting my hands to my mouth and gasping.
I had just actually said good bye to two friends who were visiting me from Denmark. They had left for the airport just as I had turned the TV on. So now I thought they might be coming back because of the air travel being shut down.
I had to get to work so I had to switch it off and go. When I left there were still dozens of planes unaccounted for so I had no idea what else was going to happen. On my walk to work there were seven or eight people gathered around the newspaper stand where they had the radio playing. I stopped there to confirm that there were no more planes hitting anywhere (I don’t remember where in all this the Pentagon was hit) and then carried on to the restaurant where I worked.
At the restaurant no one knew what was going on so I was the one who broke the news to them. ”America is under attack!” I told them, but for some reason this didn’t seem to bother anyone. They just went on with what they were doing.
I followed the story for the rest of the day from bits and pieces I heard from customers coming in. One insightful fellow said “you know who’s pretty happy right now: Bin Laden.” He pronounced it with a long “a” and the emphasis on “den”. That was a name I was only vaguely familiar with on that day.
In the weeks that followed I watched the news and read the papers. The British have a much different perspective on this than they do in North America. Britain of course has seen terrorism before and has long lived with the dangers. The one common thought I heard over and over again, particularly from Americans living in England, was that as awful a tragedy as this was perhaps there could be some good to come of it. They hoped that it would give Americans a chance to reflect on their place in the world and why it is that they are so hated. Perhaps they could broaden their understanding of the world and communicate with other cultures.
Didn’t quite happen that way did it?
Looking back now it is hard to feel sorry for America as a whole for what happened. On an individual level the tragedy is potent; for those who lost loved ones I would never want to say anything that would diminish the pain they feel. But on the larger scale, fitting it in to the perspective of the wars that followed, this attack was pretty minor.
How many Afghans died from American bombing? How many of their buildings fell?
For the American Government (very different from the American people of course) to run around waving the tragedy in front of them and saying “look what was done to us!” to justify horrible violations of international laws, not to mention human rights, is like the school bully running to the principle and demanding justice because someone stomped on his toes. It is either grossly hypocritical or out rightly evil.
I had a crazy idea a couple of years ago. Think about this: imagine if everyone completely ignored 9-11. I know this is a ridiculous idea but it makes for an interesting thought-experiment. Imagine if on September 12th everyone acted like nothing had happened. The people who lost loved ones could grieve for them and those who actually worked in and around the World Trade Center would have to begin the clean up process, but the rest of the world, even the rest of New York just carried on with business as usual.
The point of posing this idea is this: if we had ignored it what real effect would it have had? Aside from direct loss to those involved in the attacks, the only bad effects which have occurred since have been the ones we created with our response.
The unjust wars, the curtailing of liberties, the heightened fear and cultural intolerance have all resulted from us, not from any terrorist. I guess what I’m saying is that we have the power and not them. Their ability to affect our lives is very very limited. Yes we should be aware of the threat they pose and yes we should take steps to protect ourselves. But those steps should be measured against the real need for them and the real level of threat posed.
So let’s take a moment on this day to remember those who suffered, but include as well those people in other nations who have suffered far more as a consequence of our actions, than America itself suffered on that day. And remember that we in the 1st world nations have the power to influence the future for the world. That influence can be for good or it can be for ill. Decide for real what influence you would like to have and do what you can to bring it about.
Please share your stories and your thoughts.