It was a beautiful day in early September. Blue, translucent sky and crisp air.
I was on my way to a meeting and I had to walk to another building across the compound. That was when I first heard the news: ” There was an explosion at the World Trade Centre in New York”. As I reached the lobby, someone had switched on the TV and we all watched in disbelief the destruction and smoke that was coming from the tower.
In that moment my mobile phone rang.
The evening before I had decided to change plans and cancel a trip to New York. My friend and co-worker went in my place and she became a witness watching the events from Mercer Street, maybe a mile away from the towers. I was on the phone with her as the second plane hit and later as the towers fell.
We were busy over the next 3 or 4 days trying to get her out of the city. In the end she took a cab and crossed over Washington Bridge into Jersey and drove all the way up to Chicago in a rental car.
When the weekend came, we all had changed forever.
A couple of years later I lived in Manhattan myself. One day a friend called me to tell me that a sports plane had crashed into a building not far from my neighborhood. I will never forget the ash-grey faces of the people who went by. It was like a nightmare had returned, even though it was just an accident and the fire was soon under control.
Then I knew that Manhattan had suffered a trauma no-one could ever forget.
That day started as with a gloriously beautiful Fall morning and I, a Californian who never tires of Fall in the N.E., was acutely aware of it as I drove down the scenic Sprain Brook Pkwy to my job in the Bronx. First alert was when the NPR broadcaster noted a low flying large plane passing his window over looking the Hudson River. “Something is wrong, is he in trouble?” The rest is history.
That day stands in sharp contrast to this day…10 years later …..which is as dreary as a day can be and matches how I feel….somber on the alert side of depressed.
It is useful, I suppose, to look back and see the folly of human unconsciousness and hopefully to learn from it, but is that happening here or is it still a picture of such complexity and collective insanity that there is no where find perspective? Better maybe just to let it all go.
So far, on the global scale, there are no winners ….only losers. Maybe it is too late, if not for humanity then perhaps for the collective entity called the United States of America. Too sad.
Or you can say it was a pivotal event that ushered in a time of destruction. What better example that you cannot wage war on someone without waging war on yourself. Cause and effect are the laws of the universe. What lies beneath is what shows on the surface. In all of us….
Was at work. Watching with colleagues. All firemen.
In my experience, with mayor incidents, there is always a moment where I feel like I am watching something unreal. I feeling of; “this cannot and is not happening”. Like the mind is not able to comprehend what is happening.Then, sometimes slowly, there is a understanding that you have a job to do and you start to focus. But on that day we could do nothing but watch.
In the past I have visited several fire departments in different parts of the world and I became to realize that we are all more or less the same. The same culture. The same humor, the same feelings when it comes to the job. I gives me a feeling of being connected.
When a colleague dies, there is always a moment of silence. A moment where you wonder what could have happened, a moment where you realize that it could have happened to you.
On 11/9 343 firemen died. I remember how we all looked at each other. Not knowing what to say. Not knowing what to think. Not even knowing what to feel. I also remember how some colleagues reacted the moment it was clear that, so called, Muslims where responsible.
What I also remember very well is the tears in the eyes of that old man who came to me in the mosk, the next day. He kept on telling me that this is not Islam. He too, could simply not comprehend it.
After 11/9 the world changed. A people that once was very tolerant became hostile to Arabs and Muslims. And I am afraid that this is still the case.
To Raoef, Thank you for your response to 9/ll. I was particularly moved by the Muslim man at the mosque who said to you: “This is not Islam.”
I still see him. A very sweet and humble looking man. Always friendly and smiling.
A story about my dilemma at that time. A lady I had been friendly with on a group trip to Italy, at the time this occurred, later emailed me with a vivid description of the Towers site in New York shortly after the event. To my shame, I was unable to respond to her… because… I myself had been feeling so angry with Americans for the stance of economic imperialism, of being the powerful centre of the world, apparently uncaring of people 0f the “south” e.g. the Allende government, which they destroyed, and the economic power politics in the Middle East. Of course I know it wasn’t as simple as that, there were always those who disagreed with the course the US was on. To see the sad “victim” story after all that – Did they not understand why this happened? I just didn’t cope. Given another chance, I would gladly write to that friend and offer my sympathy, and perhaps explain…
I recognize that. Always have to remember myself that a state is not the same as it’s people, that a people is not the same as a person from that people and that a person is not defined by his actions or appearance alone. But it’s difficult sometimes.
Thanks for that, Raoef – that’s so true, and shows up the need to go within, and give myself time to clarify the inner process.