There are days in history that the world will never forget – the assassination of JFK; the fall of the Berlin Wall; the Lockerbie disaster. In 2001, another tragic day was added to the ever growing list. It has become my generation’s JFK. The anniversary of 11th September 2001 is the day people ask each other, “Where were you when the towers came down?”
I remember exactly where I was. Hubby and I were living in our first flat together. I was a cinema manager, so I often worked till the early hours of the morning and slept a little later. I was on the computer in the living room with the TV on in the background – I can’t remember what film or channel was playing – and I was starting to think about making some lunch.
I don’t know what made me turn around to look at the television, but when I did, I saw a hole in one of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre, and smoke billowing out of it. I thought it was part of the movie. It soon became clear it was not.
This was breaking news.
This was happening.
This was real.
I was watching when the second plane crashed into the other tower. I think I actually cried out, “Oh, my Gods! This can’t be happening!”
I was shocked. Stunned. Horrified.
At some point, I realised I was crying.
Then another craft hit the Pentagon.
Then more reports came in of another passenger plane that had crashed.
Back to New York. I watched as people hurled themselves from the burning building.
I watched as the tower began to fall.
I silently sobbed as the reports continued and the death toll rose. I couldn’t believe that anyone would want to purposely cause such devastation.
Throughout the day, I watched the towers fall many times, and each time it was like ripping the scab off an open wound.
I forgot all about lunch. I don’t remember what we had for dinner that night, but I remember not eating much. I just wasn’t hungry. The world had suddenly become a terrifying place and I couldn’t wrap my head around what had happened, and what continued to happen as a result of these tragic events.
Eleven years have passed. It still feels fresh now. I still have trouble believing that actually happened. That I watched it happening. That the knock-on effect of that day is still happening now, with troops still in Afghanistan and airports ever more vigilant. People have become less trusting, more cynical, more willing to believe the worst in others, especially if they happen to look a little middle eastern.
It’s a day that will never be forgotten. A day we will tell our children and grandchildren about as we hold them close and hope that it never happens again. Not in our lifetime. Not in theirs.