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