Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11 Remembered

September 11, 2011 - Today is indeed a day of pause and reflection. Of course, on the 10th anniversary, we tend to remember the sad event of the destruction of the Twin Towers, the attack on the pentagon, and Flight 93 that was brought down before hitting it's target. September 11 will forever be associated with these horrible events.

I should say at the outset, I didn't lose anyone in September 11. In fact, I don't really know anyone who did. In a sense, September 11 is indeed two tragedies. The personal tragedy of those that were lost or were touched deep in their lives by the attacks. The other is the tragedy involving all of us, who bare witness.

There are a few events that are always remembered in terms of where you were, or what you were doing at the time they happened.

I remember September 11 in the context of being in Sydney for a workshop. I had gone to bed early, and woke up in the hotel room in much the same way as I had the previously. I was a little late so I quickly showered and dressed, not even bothering to switch on the television to catch the morning news. It was going to be a big day at the workshop and I wanted to get there early. Catching the lift down to reception, time suddenly stopped, and the world suddenly jumped into a different reality. I exited the lift to see a large crowd of people standing around. The hotel had set up a television in the foyer and people were standing around shocked, unable to move, unable to comprehend... there was silence except for the occasional sigh or gasp. By this stage the Towers had already fallen. War had been brought to the shores of the US, to the cost of the lives of the 246 passengers and crew of the four flights, the 2,066 people in the Towers and on the ground in New York, and the 125 people in the Pentagon. War had also come directly to the many more thousands of people that had survived these attacks, or who had been involved in the subsequent rescue efforts. It's indirect toll however on those family members, or hose that personally knew victims is vast. The impact on global politics and security has even yet to be fully realised.

Of course, in one sense we are all victims of 9-11. I remember making my way through Sydney's Darling Harbour that morning, casting an occasional glance over my shoulder towards the Centre Point Tower (the highest, most obvious landmark in Sydney), wondering where the madness would end. The realisation that I would be getting back on a flight to Adelaide the next day also pressing heavily upon my heart. I was working with Americans during the workshop that were affected in very real ways by the events. I saw their pain, confusion, disbelief, and yet surprisingly beneath this, a quietness.

Indeed, we were all victims of the fear that was born into the world on that day. And still are. Wars have started - and have yet to really end. Countless thousands of people - soldiers and civilians, whether terrorists, the terrorised or simply those unable to escape the ensuing storm - have lost their lives. While there is time to reflect on the rights and wrongs of what happened since; today we remember the day the World stood still in shock. When thousands of people, just like you and I, became the first victims.

Postscript - I took the photo above in February 1998... about 5 years after the World Trade Centre bombing in 1995. Like many people I felt that the WTC symbolised (at least in part) the strength of the US, and that it was just as much a part of New York as the Statue of Liberty or Times Square. This was my first time to the US (and indeed my first trip outside of Australia), and it had quite an impact on me. I still think back, 10 years after September 11. The world can change in an instant.


  1. That is a very nice photo. I am sad I never visited the Twin Towers.

  2. Thanks...taken back when cameras used film... and I didn't have the first clue. It's strange to think about seeing the Twin Towers. I can't say now that I'm happy that I did (or not happy)... Just that watching them fall was all the more chilling.

  3. I remember visiting the Twin Towers. It's very sad looking back at pictures now. I also remember what it was like hearing the news for the first time. I was still in high school and everyone gathered in a classroom with our eyes glued to the TV. Some of us were crying, others hugging each other. It was so surreal. Even after 10 years we'll never be able to forget the impact it had on all of us.

  4. It's easy to put events like 9-11 into abstract terms. At the end of the day however, they are remembered through our own experience of them. Those things stay with us forever.

  5. It is so sad seeing the pictures and images of what happened that terrible day. I can still see myself in the teacher's staff room watching the events unfold on the TV and trying to understand what was happening in Japanese which was difficult at the time.

  6. I can well imagine what it was like. I was in Japan at the time of the Boxing Day tsunami and was frustrated at not being able to fully understand what was on tv at the time.