Remembering 9/11

It seems presumptuous for an Australian to be talking about 9/11 and yet it was an event which affected us all, wherever we lived, and yes it’s right that we should also  record our memories for our descendants as suggested by Thomas MacEntee at Geneabloggers..

On 11 September 2001, we were woken by a call from our daughter interstate soon after 10.15pm…her message seemed garbled, something about a plane and the World Trade Centre. It made no sense but we turned on the TV as directed and to our horror saw the recurring image of the first plane impacting the WTC.  We phoned our other two daughters who lived in Darwin not far away and they jumped in the car in their pyjamas to head to our place as we had cable TV.

Incredulous we watched as the second plane smashed into the towers.  There was no chance now that this had been some kind of bizarre pilot error and accident. Like the usually case-hardened CNN journalists we couldn’t assimilate what we were seeing as the vision rolled again and again, as if by watching it would suddenly somehow make sense.

Image from Wikipedia Commons.

We were aghast as the tower crumbled like some giant disintegrating sand castle … stunned, horrified.  How to reconcile that with the gorgeous views we’d seen from the WTC less than 10 years before, the thoughts of the poinsettias and the Christmas fairy lights in the foyer, people going about their business.

My thoughts turned to a couple of our 4th year medical students from the Northern Territory Clinical School who were doing clinical rotations in New York. I feared for what they would see and have to deal with in the coming hours, with visions of ambulances screaming towards hospitals. As the clock ticked round, the reality dawned and it was so much sadder and more sobering…there would be no overloaded emergency departments, the loss of human life was enormous.  No longer much of a praying person I prayed for all those lost and especially their families.

We watched for hours as the stories unravelled: the Pentagon, people jumping to their deaths, firemen climbing the stairs as others came down (how much courage did that take?); farewell in-flight phone calls to families (a blessing or a horror?).

Fireman calling for assistance; author Preston Keres. Wikipedia Commons.

In the aftermath what I remember most is those courageous firemen, the bewildered people on the streets covered in dust and that slowly crumpling tower.

We knew no one who was there, it didn’t affect our friends or families, and yet it touched our lives and changed our world.

Perhaps one day we’ll have the opportunity to revisit New York and pay our respects at the 911 Memorial.

The World Trade Centre in happier times. P Cass 1992