One year on.
Over the days leading up to the first anniversary of this atrocity I’ve been talking to friends and family, trying to make sense of what transpired a year ago today. In a way this is my generation’s JFK assassination. The defining event where we will always remember where we were and what we were doing when we heard the news.
I was in an office in Hamilton, in the kitchen. The radio was on. The broadcast interrupted with the news of a plane crash. Unconfirmed reports. World Trade Center. Passenger Jet. Several of us rushed to the TV.
Sky News had tapped into the CNN feed. A camera on the ground, a tower burning. Was it an accident? Confusion. How did it happen? No facts. Confusion.
Under the voice of the newsreader we can here reaction, people shouting, the camera jostling for a better picture. Then a scream. The camera pans wildly. The second plane.
We stood there until the towers fell. We stood there for hours. Hardly a word. We listened to reports at the Pentagon. We listened to reports of a plane crash. We wondered if it would end.
I thought of a friend in New York. I worried. I felt sick.
At around 5pm, we all went home. The TV turned on, dinner missed as the details came in. Hijack. Terrorists. Disbelief.
Over the following days the facts solidified, reaction kicked in, anger, hatred, revenge. Then the human stories, survival, loss, pain. Unity?
I can remember the day itself in all too vivid technicolour, but it is beginning to blur. Interference of reports and documentaries turn my memories in a stream of images, not all mine. The planes impacting the towers, the Pentagon on fire, desperate people jumping, camera’s rushing for cover in the dust, firemen escaping the collapse, bewildered people wandering, crying, holding strangers tight. Grief and anguish meeting confusion and uncertainty.
I remember hearing from my friend. I remember seeing the reactions of those in New York, one man in a crowd of differing races and religions, ranting, shouting, confronting. One man with a big voice being asked to calm down, why shout? “Because I don’t know how to process this”.
All the pain and suffering. The shocking images, still raw a year on. Still numb, still hollow, still unable to comprehend the scale.
I’ve spoken with Muslim friends and co-workers, I’ve read up on situations I previously knew little about. I’ve tried to understand why. I’ve listened to those with a different view point. I’ve heard the stories of people who should’ve been in the buildings but weren’t, of the last phone calls from the planes, of the man who stayed in the building with his wheelchair bound friend, of the heroics of the many, and the tragic deaths.
One question remains.
What have we learned?
Have we gained an understanding of why this happened? Is there a compromise? Should there be a compromise? How do we stop it happening again? Are more deaths necessary?
What will it take for the suffering to stop?
I could write so much more, but I fear I wouldn’t be able to stop.
Remember this day. Not every year, but every day. Learn the lessons, stop the hatred.