A Day To Pause And Reflect

I still don’t know what made me do it. It was late on a cool Tuesday spring evening in Sydney; I had been working sixteen hours straight at my computer, and my head was filled with ten thousand lines of software code. Normally after a such long day, I am able to drop off straight to sleep. But that night, for some reason, I couldn’t. After about a quarter of a hour, I gave up and switched on the TV. I instantly recognized the image: the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Centre. Smoke was pouring out of both structures. Strange, I thought; a fire in both buildings? I hoped everyone had been evacuated, anyway.

What else is on? I flicked the remote. But the next channel was showing the very same images. And the next channel. And the next. All of them. I shook myself out of my software revelry and focussed on the near-hysterical commentary accompanying the pictures. I heard the words hijacking and terrorism, and I recalled that the World Trade Centre had been the target of an attempted terrorist attack some years earlier. What I was witnessing became very clear as the pictures cut away to what was clearly amateur, mobile-phone footage of a jet aircraft flying into one of the towers.

The rest of the evening for me remains a tangled memory. I wondered if World War Three had just started. I got in touch with my sister, who had moved to Texas the previous year; my brother-in-law, a USAF reservist and veteran of the first Gulf War, was expecting to be called up at any moment. It became clear after a few hours that the two (then four) aircraft had been hijacked by some kind of Middle Eastern extremist group.

But at the time, I remember the predominant emotion was grief. That is my main memory of the days that followed, as well. Grief—before anger, vengeance, perplexity, or any other emotion. Grief, that such a thing could happen to our friends. Among the expressions of sympathy and solidarity that reverberated around the world, you might have seen the Sydney Harbour Bridge’s two massive flagpoles flying the Stars and Stripes for a week afterwards. It made me feel better, that at least we were letting America know she had friends in her time of need. My own sympathy card was added to the small mountain of cards and flowers piled in the foyer of the United States consulate in Sydney.

Quite shockingly, a friend of my wife (we’d not yet met) had a son attending a Sydney suburban school with a large Lebanese Muslim population. She reported her son witnessed at school the next day, scenes of wild celebration, cheering and high-fiving amongst the students, most of whom were under ten years of age. This extraordinary reaction becomes explicable when you consider that the imam of the local Lakemba mosque at the time was one Sheikh Taj el-Din Hamid al-Hilaly, the Grand Mufti of Australia. Less than three years later, in a sermon in Arabic at a mosque in Lebanon, he had this to say:

11 September is Allah’s work against oppressors. Some of the things that happen in the world cannot be explained; a civilian airplane whose secrets cannot be explained if we ask its pilot who reached his objective without error, who led your steps? Or if we ask the giant that fell, who humiliated you? Or if we ask the President, who made you cry? Allah is the answer.

Too many words have already been written about this terrible event that changed history for LibertyGibbert to add anything either new or profound. But on this day, ten years hence, it is appropriate that we pause and reflect on how that day changed the world—and changed us. Are we any more or less free as a result? As a frequent air traveller, I know the answer to at least one part of that question. Do we have a better understanding of our society as a result of this outrage? Is there any good, anywhere, that has come out of this?

I don’t intend to dwell today on the many conspiracy theories surrounding that day, and I’d prefer not to foster a discussion about them here—not today, at any rate; it really isn’t appropriate. That’s Captain Sherlock’s side of the street, anyway. Instead, I’d like you to tell us where you were when you first heard the news. And how, if at all, you think the world has changed for the better—we all know only too well how it has changed for the worse—how the road to Liberty has, perhaps as a result, become clearer to us. Has that which did not kill us, indeed made us stronger?

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14 Responses to A Day To Pause And Reflect

  1. Dr. Dave says:

    I moved to Texas in 1984. My new boss and I were sitting out in the summer shade drinking beers and he mentioned the assassination of JFK as being a moment that everyone alive at the time has etched in their memory. I was only in 1st grade on 11/22/63 but he was right. I remember almost every detail of that day. I vividly remember when John Lennon was murdered (I was at a meeting in San Francisco). But I shall never forget 9/11/01.

    We’re on mountain time in NM (i.e. two hours earlier than the east coast). I dragged myself out of bed at 7AM, grabbed a cup of coffee and sat down to watch CNN until the caffeine kicked in. When I turned on the TV the south tower of the World Trade Center was burning. As I continued to watch I saw the second plane fly into the north tower. I instantly knew it was the work of Osama bin Laden long before the cowardly news anchors dared mention his name (may he forever burn in hell). I watched until both towers fell. Then I took a shower and drove into the office. I apologized for being late but no one seemed to care. Everyone’s emotions were set on “numb”. I was scheduled to drive out the the Ojo Encino Navajo clinic that day. So I grabbed my stuff and piled into the POS 1997 Toyota Carolla the company provided. I hated that damn car. For one thing I’m 6’2″ tall and it was designed for people in the 5 foot range who can’t even pronounce Corolla. It lacked power windows and cruise control and the tape deck didn’t work. You were stuck with AM/FM until you drove out of range for FM radio.

    From the office it was just a 2 1/2 hour drive out to the middle-of-nowhere that is Ojo Encino. There was NO music on the FM dial – it was wall to wall news coverage. When I arrived at the clinic the waiting room was packed, but they weren’t seeing patients. The waiting room was packed with Navajo who were glued to the TV – just like Dr. Garcia and the rest of the staff. I don’t remember much of the actual clinic visit as I was functioning on autopilot…just going through the motions. But I distinctly recall the drive home. The radio stations were packed wall to wall with news commentary and there wasn’t a single jet contrail in the sky. The latter observation was very significant for me. Since I was a very little kid and no matter where I lived the sky on a clear day was ALWAYS covered with jet contrails. When I was a little kid sonic booms from military aircraft were not uncommon. But for a few days after 9/11…and perhaps the ONLY time in my lifetime…there absolutely NO jet contrails in the sky.

    On 9/11/01 everyone in this country was an “American”…and damn proud of it, too. Like Ozboy, I too felt tremendous grief. But I also was filled with fiery anger and rage. I lusted for the blood of those responsible for this outrage. We’re talking hot, burning hatred here. After I cool down I’ll expand on this narrative and tell you the story of a soldier I know who served in Afghanistan.

  2. Kitler says:

    I won’t bore anyone with my recollections but all I can is the enemy has won and the country I knew and loved fell that day.
    What has been the result the constitution ignored and spat on by Bush and Obama, rule by Executive Order. Wealth squandered on wars whose aims have been dubious at best and are we any safer or more hated as a result and who has benefited from those wars our economic enemy China.
    Children are groped in airports by perverts working for the TSA, people exposed to dangerous radiation through scanners. People seized and sent off to special detention centers without due process or trials.
    Freedoms eroded, free speech rights reduced and slowly the USA has turned into a surveillance police state.
    It is not just in the USA but the UK, Europe and elsewhere.
    There is hope to turn this all around but it takes decades to get rights back once lost for the feeling of pretend safety.

  3. meltemian says:

    9/11/01 ……what do I remember?
    It happened to be my day off work and I was doing the weeks ironing and watching the television to take my mind off the boredom of the job. I was already watching when the news cut into the programme so I saw the whole horror develop. I panicked for a moment as my daughter was in New York and had been due to attend a meeting in the WTC that day. I was unaware at the time that she had decided to delegate the meeting to another girl as she was needed urgently back in London. The relief when she phoned was immense!!
    The world seems to be a much more dangerous place now but that is probably because we are now all aware of the dangers. I’m sure Americans had a great shock on many fronts, not least because they realised that they were a target in their own country and no longer unassailable.
    Kitler is right, we have lost so much in the way of personal freedom as a result, or maybe government using the attack as an excuse to take away those rights we were accustomed to. Sadly we will probably never regain them, and it will all be ‘for our own safety’!

  4. fenbeagle says:

    As kitler said. We lost that day.
    I was working on the drawing board, with the radio on. My parents were visiting from Devon. But were out on a jolly. I was drawing as usual, no idea what, it hardly mattered. Something must have bees said on the radio, because I went to the lounge and watched the whole thing, from beginning to end. When my parents came in I said, we are at war. I’m not sure who with, but it’s going to be bad.
    I was wrong, in that the wars have been small and contained. Not what I was expecting. But my gut feeling is it could be a long slow fuse…… Hopefully I am still wrong.
    The enemy has been slain, after all. But the world is not the same place.

  5. Kitler says:

    fenbeagle we surrendered a lot of our freedoms after that and for what no real safety they can not stop potential terrorist suspects at airports because of political correctness. However 80 year old ladies are forced to strip and young children groped by pedophiles employed by the TSA.
    Then there was Rumsfeld’s stupid policy of invading a country without any idea what to do afterwards. I really do hate the Neocon’s because all of them were damn control freaks with no idea what the hell they were doing.
    Obama is ten times worse because he is trying to help the enemy thanks to his mainly muslim sympathies.

  6. Amanda says:

    President Bush got a standing ovation yesterday after his speech dedicating a memorial on the ground where Flight 93 crashed. He spoke of evil and of the innocent victims of murder, among other things. As always, he was also patriotic and hopeful about America. As am I.

    I won’t grouse about what hasn’t been done right. Ten years on, there have been no further attacks on our soil and we long ago pushed both al-Qaeda and the Taliban into the furtive desperate impotence in which they are currently languishing.

    Vigilance and anger and retribution won. We’re not losers, despite our losses: we continue to plough our way as the freest people Earth as ever seen. I’m proud to be an American. Semper Fi.

  7. Amanda says:

    On a different note (and I hope it’s all right), I checked in tonight because I wanted to share what might be the good news about the dreaded cane toad (Bufo marinus), which has done so much to harm Australia, where it was introduced in the 1930s from Central and South America in a desperate attempt at insect pest control. At about the same time, the United States was making a similar mistake with kudzu, importing its own invasive gone-mad pest from the Far East, for roadside erosion control (it was a vine: for heaven’s sake, they should have known!). Anyway, kudzu, though virtually impossible to get rid of (and it smothers everything, if given the chance: shrubs, trees, parked cars, houses) at least can be eaten, while cane toads are toxic as well as voracious.

    Anyway, the good news (let’s hope!):

  8. Amanda says:

    Oz, you ask in your article where we were when we heard the news. I was doing my laundry in a village in England, while Mr A was at work. This is what I wrote this morning to an American friend:

    I have memories of ten years ago as does everyone else. [My husband] was on the London bond desk at [company name] on that morning, and the London guys were on the phone to the New York guys in the World Trade when the planes hit…. That was when [my husband] called me at home…. Everyone at Cantor Fitzgerald who showed up for work was killed. I have a memento of C. F. which [my husband] happened to have in London. I may have mentioned before that the apartment complex where we lived in the late 1990s had to be evacuated for several days. I used to walk through the World Trade Center every day on my way to work (at ———– on the East side of Manhattan. It occurred to me often that the place had been bombed — I used to shop there, too, and get my hair cut there and hang out in the bookshop. That’s why I never went up into the tower but always stayed near ground level, a bit above or a bit below.)

  9. Amanda says:

    By the way, I can see the apartment buildings (I switched from one to another to avoid an abusive neighbour) in the photo Oz shows above. The dark foreground buildings within the outline of the Twin Towers. Just behind and to the left are the buildings of the World Financial Center, which had an enclosed pedestrian bridge over the West Side highway to the World Trade Center. High on that bridge I could see the fretwork of the World Trade Center up close, before entering. Used to look at it every morning. I’ll always associate it with Led Zeppelin because that was the music playing in my head.

  10. Hi Oz,

    9/11 was a surreal day for myself; being at work (still in the U.K. in 2001), and slowly hearing things via. office gossip. I was young and innocent at that time, so I didn’t even look for myself on the internet, as I was a “boy scout” who would restrict myself to work-related activities only. There was no TV in the building, and the descriptions I heard only gave me Hollywood fantasy visions in my mind.

    Eventually that evening I saw the pictures on TV, and reality started to bite. The immediate response was “let’s kick ass”, and that was the common feeling amongst everyone (a rare moment of unity across the board). If only in the aftermath we hadn’t have been hoodwinked by Pakistan, and would have sorted them out, at the same time as Afghanistan (with the right amount of troops, I may add).

    A couple of particularly bad visions from the day itself that are still stuck in my mind:
    (i) the thought of innocent good people having to jump ~100+ floors to their death
    (ii) the images from the West Bank (and a few other Mid East countries) of sick people cheering

    As with Amanda, one thing I did watch this weekend was GWB’s speech at the Flight 93 memorial. It hit the spot perfectly. Onwards and upwards….

  11. Amanda says:

    Ozboy, I like your comments on James’s latest thread. We can always count on you to bring civility to the proceedings. On this occasion as well, we get a bit of humour, we get a bit Latin. Don’t tell me — among your other talents, you raise birds of paradise, coax orchids into flower by the light of the moon, and waterski like a demon. It wouldn’t surprise me!

    LOL! Thanks Amanda, but no, I’m not a Renaissance man to that extent. The Latin is a hangover of my long altar boy training – Oz

    BTW re James’ latest thread, I’m fairly certain Ms Redgrave is depicted somewhere here:

  12. Kitler says:

    Well our GE outdid himself today it is remarkable the number of lefties twisting themselves into knots to support slavery by a protected minority of people they are intellectually bankrupt. When you have your head shoved so far up rear end the end is no longer near the tonsils are.

  13. Amanda says:

    LOL Okay, Ozboy. But if Latin’s a hangover, it sounds a lot better than some I’ve had!

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