Ten years on – Remembering 9/11

Manhattan Skyline 1999

Manhattan Skyline 1999

Manhattan skyline, New York City, USA, 2006

Manhattan skyline, New York City, USA, 2006

I clearly remember where I was and what I was doing when I found out about the horror that was occurring in New York City 10 years ago. I think most people would remember where they were too.

I was at home, on our bed, watching TV. I remember the news flashes after the first plane hit the north tower. It all seemed like a terrible accident. I started reminiscing with hubby about the city and recalled my visit to the Twin Towers in 1999. I remember visiting the Top of the World Trade Center Twin Towers Observation Deck and marvelling at the amazing view of the skyline. I remember shopping in the basement shops of the WTC. I remember listening to a summer Jazz concert in the courtyards where the massive Sphere sculpture was located.

Manhattan from the Top of the World Observation Deck, 1999
Manhattan from the Top of the World Observation Deck, 1999 (click to enlarge)

Glued to the broadcasts, I was watching live when the second plane hit the south tower. Instantly, things became extremely grave. It was too coincidental to be an accident. Then the Pentagon was hit.

I remember feeling horrified. It was hard for me not to imagine the fear of those trapped desperately hoping for rescue, and the heart-wrenching anxiety of waiting loved ones. All these emotions churned inside me, despite the fact I was half-way round the world, and so removed from the actual scene of devastation.

At the same time, I was also very worried for my friend living in Manhattan. On top of that, I was perplexed about my own upcoming travel plans since I was scheduled to leave on a work trip the following week. New York City was on my itinerary.

As the live news reports kept pouring in, I repeatedly called my friend but lines were understandably congested. I kept trying, quietly hoping she and her family were safe. She lived and worked uptown between 59th and 86th Streets so would not normally be anywhere near the World Trade Center or the Twin Towers but I didn’t know about her husband. When I finally got through, my relief was palpable. They were safe! However, she was, surprisingly, oblivious to what was happening only kilometres away from her. I remember informing her about the Pentagon attack and saying things looked bad, that it wasn’t an accident, that it looked like terrorism. It seemed much of America was still waking up to the unimaginable horror that was unfolding on their shores.

I was riveted to the news reports, deeply saddened but also finding a sense of disbelief at the enormity of the disaster. What was next? What would it mean for the rest of the world? I watched the smoke billowing from the fires raging in the Twin Towers. When reporters, however, started to speak about people dangling out of the windows waving for help, desperate people jumping to their certain deaths, I had to look away. I could not bear to watch.

My horror and grief deepened when the towers collapsed. It was too unbelievable to even imagine what it must be like for those on the ground, let alone those in the crumbling towers.

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Over the next day or two, I had to decide what I was doing with my travel plans. In the end, for peace of mind, I managed to re-route my flight from Europe via Canada, totally skipping mainland USA. Some people told me that it would have been the safest time in history to fly to the USA since security would be ramped up to the max, but I was going expressly to see my friend in New York City and I did not believe it would have been a happy place to be so soon after the attacks.

Whilst my trip by-passed the USA, I could not escape the topic of 9/11 and its aftermath on America and the rest of the world. This was especially the case in Oslo, Norway. As I was exploring the city, I came by the American Embassy. Security outside had been ramped up. Then I noticed that the footpath on the opposite side of the road was covered with flowers, balloons, ribbons, written tributes, condolences, poems and more. The pathway had become a shrine. I was immediately stopped in my tracks and deeply moved. I took photos and video footage, and spent a long time reading, looking, pondering, reflecting.

Tweety Bird for Joe, Oslo, Norway, 2001

Tweety Bird for Joe, Oslo, Norway, 2001

God Bless U.S. Poster, Oslo, Norway, 2001

God Bless U.S. Poster, Oslo, Norway, 2001

There were very personal and heartbreaking tributes to loved ones; a yellow Tweety bird plush toy with the name “Joe” hand written on its chest and a little pink music box with a photograph of a baby placed on top.

There was a hand made poster of Lady Liberty with the following words: “God Bless U.S.”

There was an email entitled ‘Prayer for Our Nation’ which started with the line….”I don’t think we can pray too much….”

There was also a letter from a young girl trying to make sense of it all.

“Dear president Bush.

Why should this happend? Why must hundreds of innocent people die?

I believe that if the world had started to speak to each other

then what happend in the U.S.A. would not have taken place.

love Kristin 10 1/2 years”

Eternal Peace Flame
The Eternal Peace Flame, Oslo, Norway

After what seemed like hours, I eventually peeled myself away still trying to absorb what I had just seen. Providentially, my walk led me to the waterfront where I came upon the Flame of Eternal Peace. Considering what I had just seen and the current upheaval in the world, I was strongly drawn to this memorial. It had only been installed three months earlier in June.

Under the flame was a guest book. I sat down on the waterfront and started reading. What were people writing in the aftermath of 9/11? I quickly skimmed through the stereotypical wishes for peace until I reached the date I was looking for – September 11. The following message stood out:

11/9/01    Something truly dreadful happened today. We must make this a turning point for humanity. Horrendous acts must be fought with peace if the human race is to survive. The flame must burn eternally. I have found great solace in the flame. P.L.

Aker Brygge Sunset, Oslo, Norway
Aker Brygge Sunset, Oslo, Norway

I became caught up in the emotions expressed through the words people had penned. I read about the personal horror of one family and struggled to fathom it. They lived in Battery Park, New York, adjacent to the WTC, and were on holiday in Europe. On 9/11 their world as they knew it came crashing down. They had their lives but were angry and full of despair at not having a home to return to. A few others penned accusations blaming the USA for bringing the terrorism upon themselves. By far, most were messages yearning for, and supporting peace.

For the second time that day, I found myself very deeply moved. I felt I couldn’t leave, that I shouldn’t leave; that in the light of the seriousness of the state of the world, I had to do something. But what could I do? All I could think to do, all I actually did, was stay and ponder until the sun set on the harbour.

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Some months after returning home from Oslo in 2001, I was listening to music and looking through video footage I had taken whilst on my trip. When the song, “Dante’s Prayer” by Loreena McKennitt came on, I felt deeply inspired by the music and words. That inspiration led to the following home video:

In Memorium…….

Then the mountain rose before me

By the deep well of desire

From the fountain of forgiveness

Beyond the ice and fire

Cast your eyes on the ocean

Cast your soul to the sea

When the dark night seems endless

Please remember me.

Excerpt from Dante’s Prayer by Loreena McKennitt

***

This is part 1 of my tribute on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. You may like to read part 2 next Wednesday entitled Wordless Wednesday – Hope in New York After 9/11.

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I’m linking with Glowless of Where’s My Glow’s for FlogYoBlog Friday (FYBF).

FYBF

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19 thoughts on “Ten years on – Remembering 9/11

  1. Reading all of this made my eyes tear up. It’s still raw in many ways as I was living and working in NYC at the time. I did not lose anyone directly, though I did know several people who lost spouses or parents. By the way, I liked your photos from NY and Oslo – very nice tribute. It’s important to remember what happened so that we can learn from it.

    • Wow! Being right there, it would have been an experience etched into you forever in a way those of us half-way round the world cannot fathom. Even though we wish it never happened, anniversaries of such events are important, as you’ve said. Lest we forget.

  2. Beauiful post. THis attack made the world see how barbaric, backward and stupid the terrorists are. I believe it has united the civalized world against their cause and their perverted views.

    The Cranky Old Man

  3. I remember where I was. I was at my house with my boyfriend and my sister watching Rove Live. It went to commercial break, then the live coverage started.
    I sat riveted, crying my eyes out. Not just for the people affected right then, but for the war that I knew would come from it and the hundreds of thousands of people who would in turn suffer.

    • It was hard to not be deeply moved and saddened. Our world has sure changed as a result. We’ve not had to live through World Wars, but I guess this is the closest to it. I hope we and our children never have to either.

  4. This was a beautiful tribute. I was only 17 and in year 12 of high school when we woke up to this news. I rmember our day at school was spent glued to the news and an emergency mass. Terrifying, devastating, incredibly sad stuff.

  5. You can’t forget where you were when it happened. The whole world completely changed.
    Loved reading your perspective on this.

    I was saying to my husband just last night, that it doesn’t matter how many times you see that footage of the planes, it is never less terrifying.

    • Thanks Jess. I could never have imagined the experience in Norway to be as it ended up. Deeply impacted me as did the actual events in the US. I know what you mean about the footage. It still cuts me up to see it all.

  6. In some ways, it really is hard to believe that it’s been 10 years. There are parts of that day that I remember like it was only yesterday. The pain and heartache still very much alive. So hard for many families, friends to move on. So many lives affected.

    • Hi Grace. I know. 10 years has flown by in some respects. Both the key protagonists are dead but so are thousands of additional people who went out to fight in the war. It is all very sad for all the deceased and their families. And also for the rest of us to a lesser degree. It’s changed our lives forever.

  7. That letter from the 10.5 year old is pretty powerful stuff. This all brought me to tears. So beautifully written.
    I still can’t beleive it’s been 10 years. That blows me away. But more so, that the memories we all seem to have of that day have stayed with us so vividly. It will be hard not to have it at the top of my thoughts tomorrow. xx

    • Thanks Kel. That letter was very moving. I can only imagine how hard it was to explain to children at the time. One day, I guess we’ll have to figure out how to explain these sort of things to our little ones. Hopefully we will have the wisdom when the time comes.

    • Hi Nicole. I know what you mean. I initially thought it seemed to surreal to be real. Even though part of me knew it was real as it all unfolded, I still felt disbelief at what was happening. Hard to fathom. Hard not to be so moved by the entire event.

  8. Pingback: Wordless Wednesday – Hope in New York After 9/11 « Mixed Gems

  9. This is something that is etched in all of our hearts… this is a beautiful memorial to all, I know it comes from your spirit and that means that much more, thank you… if more could see the world through your heart what a beautiful place this could be….RaeDi

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