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Where Were You on 9/11?

Posted on the 09 September 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost

Where were you on 9/11?

Ground Zero, New York City, N.Y. (Sept. 17, 2001). Photo credit: slagheap

Where were you on 9/11? Everybody can remember that one. Before it was ‘where were you when John Lennon got shot?’ or ‘what were you doing when you heard about Princess Diana?’ Only one person had been killed but they were icons. On 9/11 no world-famous figure died but nearly 3,000 lives were lost – people like us.

‘None of us will ever forget this day,’ US President George Bush said in his address to the nation that night and it was the truth. But most of us can put aside the graphic image of The Twin Towers crashing to dust and get on with our lives. It has not been so easy for everyone. The New York Times reported that at least 10,000 firemen, policemen and civilians have been found to have post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the attack. Some still, ten years on, cannot escape the nightmares, sleeplessness, guilt and constant reminders of lost loved ones. They are unable to put it away in a box.

I was nowhere near The Twin Towers on 9/11 but my memory of that day is still vivid. Alone in Washington DC with two young children and their dad 1,000 miles away, I remember the moment when the presenter on National Public Radio said, with a tremble in his voice, that a passenger plane had crashed into the North Tower. I remember crowding round the TV in the public library as a tearful elderly lady clutched my arm and said, ‘they have hit the Pentagon, dear. And there is another hijacked plane circling DC.’ I remember the sickening feeling of fear as I drove to fetch my eldest daughter from her first day at nursery school in a strange country. Cars were pouring out of the city, bumper to bumper, as if everyone was heading for the hills. All around were shocked, frightened faces and the sound of sirens and helicopters. The phone lines were down, I hardly knew a soul and the media reported that hospital staff feared biological warfare. The US military were said to be on nuclear alert. Could I protect my children? Were we all going to die a slow, painful death? Was this really the end of the world as we knew it? And, all the while, it was a perfect day with blue skies and brilliant sunshine.

The 9/11 attacks reminded us all of life’s fragility

At times it felt like a surreal disaster movie, and I was merely an extra in the crowd, but I can still remember a feeling of fear like no other. I clearly didn’t have post-traumatic stress disorder but, like all the other mothers around me in the suburbs, I became abnormally anxious. I was a stoical Brit who had grown up during the IRA bombing campaign but I still obsessed over my children’s safety. The whole experience starkly reminded us of what really mattered but also of life’s fragility. And for Americans, there was another harsh reality to face. Another group of human beings hated what their country stood for so much that they were able to justify carrying out such an atrocity.

Those who suffered most acutely from the attack may never truly recover – how could you completely? – but as time goes, they may eventually find ways to live with what happened on 9/11.


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