Sunday, September 11, 2011


9/11 will always be one of those days that make people say, "Where Were You When...?". For my way of thinking, it's up there with the JFK assassination, the death of Elvis, the wedding of Charles & Di, and then the death of the Princess sixteen years later.

I remember the events of September 11, 2001 really well. I was house-sitting for a friend back home and I had been out late that night (dinner or something I guess) and I figured that while I was getting ready for bed I'd put the news on. TV noise in the background - good distraction, and whatnot. When Sandra Sully told me that the first plane had hit the World Trade Centre I, like everyone, thought it had been pilot error. I remember thinking to myself, "That Tower was huge - how could he have hit that?!". So I forgot about the pre-bed routine and sat down to watch the story unfold. I remember Sandra periodically looking off-camera as the news came in, almost as if she too could scarcely believe what the teleprompter was telling her to share with us. And as the live cameras rolled, I stared open-mouthed when the plane hit the second tower.

The phone rang. I picked it up almost immediately and managed to squeak a barely-audible greeting. "Are you watching this?", was all my mother whispered. I was so glad to have somebody with whom I could share this unbelievable tragedy that seemed right out of a Hollywood disaster movie. We stayed on the phone together that night, both of us watching the same TV news, not daring to talk lest we miss vital developments. When Sandra told us about the plane hitting the Pentagon, and the crash of fourth plane in Pennsylvania, Mum & I knew that terrorism was the only explanation that made sense - and I think it spooked us both pretty well and proper.

Over the next few days, I was glued to CNN - it almost got to be quite unhealthy I think. I just couldn't look away. I wanted to know all about these terrorists - who they were, what they wanted, and why they would hurt a bunch of innocent people who were just going about their daily lives on an otherwise normal morning. The news saturation didn't answer all my questions, but I think it did help wake me up a bit to the very real fact that sometimes, bad things happen to people who don't deserve it. And even though I wasn't in the US on September 11, the impacts of that day are felt every time any of us go through an airport. None of us get to escape what happened that horrible day.

So here we are 10 years on and I promised myself I wouldn't overdose on anniversary footage. I did cheat a little though, and read some amazing articles in The New Yorker and my New York magazines. One article helped me cement how I would personally approach the 10th anniversary of 9/11 when it said that the day is a chance "to remember the dead and, with them, the survivors, the firemen and the police, the nurses and the doctors and the spontaneous, instinctive volunteers, the myriad acts of courage and kindness".

And so in that spirit, I could barely sleep last night and was out the door by 7am to have breakfast at Sarge's Deli, not far from my house. A pastrami omelette with a toasted bagel and bad coffee seemed as good a NY tribute breakfast as any. Afterwards at the gym I got through some of the 9/11 memorial ceremony on TV, but I didn't have the stomach for the reading of the names part, so I had to turn it off.

Enough has probably been said about 9/11 and what it means to people is a personal thing anyway. As a new arrival to NY I can't possibly imagine what that day - and its aftermath - must have been like. But the New York I know is gritty, resilient, stubborn and relentless. I guess all signs point to a concrete jungle on the mend.

1 comment:

Helenbeee said...

Sat up and watched the ABC special bits of 9/11 and what it meant to Australia.
I too couldnt stay around for the victim reading more from the fact that I needed sleep.
But what was lovely was the rebirth special that took you through the grief process of select victims and the fact that whilst they never forget and are not the same people they were before they have somehow managed to be happy with what they have. An amazing story of resilience and survival which was comforting and positive. We need to remember but not saturate ourselves in the pain anymore.
Pastrami bagel mmmmmmmm I like the way you show tributes ;)