Thursday, September 11, 2008

Remembering 9-11

Every year on this date, I set aside time to remember what happened 7 years ago. Although we say to ourselves "don't take things for granted", very often we forget & it's so easy to let the humdrum of the day to day take over.

Monday September 11, 2001. I'd just come back from a week's vacation in Morocco. All rejuvenated & although dreading going back to work, it was a beautiful sunny day in New York. It was the usual Monday morning bustle & before I'd even gotten down to replying to my gazillion emails & phone messages, something was wrong. We were all told to turn on our TVs - I worked in a media organisation so all of us had TVs installed on our computers. On the screen, we heard the news that one of the towers of WTC was hit by a plane. Shocked, we all thought it was some kind of pilot error.

I quickly called my family in Singapore just to let them know the news & that I was fine. Our office was in mid town & not down town near Wall Street. I was still on the phone with my brother, when on TV, I saw the second plane hit. It was then that everybody realised it was a lot more serious than just a simple pilot error.

The office just fell silent - everybody was glued to the screen, at the horror of what happened. The phone lines were all jammed up as everybody was desperately calling friends, family, neighbours, clients & anybody they knew. Very soon, emails started pouring in cos that was the only means of communication that worked. We had an online help desk & we received messages from people trapped inside WTC asking for help & accounts of people jumping off the bulding.

Then right before our eyes, we gasped & cried when
the towers crumbled one after the other like a pack of cards. Whatever hope we had for the survivors, disappeared right then. I remember this intense feeling of disbelief, dispair & sadness. How could this be happening ?

Shortly after, a state of emergency was declared & everybody was urged to go home.
People who lived further away left first - they had a long way to walk since all modes of transportation had stopped by then. The sports stores were packed with people buying comfortable shoes for the long walk home. I remember I didn't leave the office till late cos I didn't live that far away but mostly because I didn't want to return to an empty apartment & watched the news by myself.

Walking home was the most surreal experience & one that I'll never forget. There were no cars, people were walking on the street & there was a quietness that was so unlike New York. It felt like a movie set - you could see & smell the smoke from the burning towers downtown, the choppers & fighter planes circling the city, the exodus of people in silence - except this was all very real. Apart from the sports stores, all the supermarkets were packed with people stocking up food. Even bars were full cos I guess like me, nobody wanted to be alone.

For days after, I was glued to the TV, switching from channel to channel trying to get as much information as possible. I was lucky because nobody I knew personally had perished (our company lost 3 staff who were at Windows of the World for a seminar) but not everyone was that lucky, almost everybody had lost or knew somebody who had lost a family member, buddy, neighbour or school mate.

For days, weeks & months after, in whatever form, everybody pitched in - feeding the fire fighters, donating blood, donating money to the widows & orphans, helping to relocate the residents of downtown - any which way to not feel so helpless. Our company organised many volunteer work & one of them was to help the law firm receiving the donations organise the thousands of cheques that were coming in from all over the country. It may not be very front line work but it warmed my heart tremendously to see how the Americans really rallied together. For the first time, I realised what it means to be patriotic.

I don't want to forget what happened 7 years ago. I pray that we will never witness another event like this again.

Note : the image above is taken from allposters.com

2 comments:

Ms. _____ 2 be ! said...

Ahh reading this reminds me of what happen that day.

petite fleur said...

ms ___2 be - Thank you for dropping by. Hope you stay a while longer.