Remembering 9/11… A Day of Reflection and Introspection…
An icon that is permanently etched in my mind is an image, at the corner of the television screen of an enormous plane exploding into the Twin-Towers. I was nine and I still remember that day as if it was yesterday. Whether in New York, Los Angeles, Beunos Aires, London and even Johannesburg, the memory of where you were and what you were doing lives within you forever.
Slam! “I’m late, I’m going to miss it, Mommy open the door, somebody open the door!”
“How many times must I tell you to stop slamming the car door?” calls my mom from behind me. “Sorry!”
It is pouring. It’s been raining all day.
Now that I think back on it, it was fitting for what was to come.
Ding dong, Ding dong! The gate opens. Crash, my bag drops, whatever is in there has definitely broken but I’ll worry about it later. The worry of my mom’s reaction does not phase me, even if it is the honey-jar that I have made for the High-Holy Days. My destination…The T.V…and fast!
Click. On goes the TV, “I want to travel across the land searching far and wide, to catch them is my real test, and to train them is my cause, POKEMON!”
“Yes I didn’t miss it! Whoah!” I throw my hands in the air.
“We interrupt this broadcast to bring you breaking news.”
Ah man, what is this rubbish? What could be so important that can’t wait until after my T.V. show? I’ve been waiting all week for this episode!
“A plane has reportedly crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Centre in addition to the Pentagon.”
My irritation fades into utter shock. I feel as if I am standing in the middle of a movie. No way, no way. The World Trade Center…The Pentagon…. I run fast, down the passage, adrenaline pumping, I watch my feet as they go… “Mommy Mommy!” I start to scream, “A plane has just crashed into the Pentagon and World Trade Center.”
“Lani, what rubbish are you watching? If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a hundred times, you are too young to be watching all those ridiculous action movies!”
“I’m telling you, just take a look.”
“Ilanit Chernick, if this is another one of your silly jo-”
The TV is on. The glass of water my mom is holding smashes to the ground… slowly, slowly; it falls…falls…falls…smash…a precursor to the collapse of the Towers.
We are horrified. The blood drains from my Mother’s face.
Time stands still as we watch a second plane collide with the South Tower. The reporter is speechless. There is complete silence.
My family all converge on the T.V. in our lounge. There is a surge of pain…We are in a daze. We click to each news channel. All the news reporters repeat the same thing, “Three planes have crashed into United States landmarks, the fourth in Pennsylvania. It is believed to have been heading for the White House. President Bush is safe. He has condemned these attacks.” My father arrives home. He has heard the news. He is afraid, not just for us but for the world. What is to come? Is the world as we know it ending?
A high-pitched sound wakes us all from our deep trance. The phone. Somebody answer. It is a family friend, “My brother, he works in the Towers, I haven’t heard from him yet,” her voice begins to crack, “Wha-a-a-t…What should I do?”
My mom comforts her. Tells her, she is sure he is okay. They talk for a few minutes and the receiver is put down. It’s been almost two hours since the first plane hit and yet it feels like a lifetime has passed.
I hear screaming, loud shouts, I turn my head back to the screen. “I don’t believe what I’m seeing. This…this can’t be real.” My mom cries.
The first tower has crumbled, now the second begins to implode. There are sirens. Shrieks. A plume of smoke. And then… Nothing. A cold, deathly silence.
Pitch black darkness turns into a grey haze. “The towers are gone; I repeat the towers are gone.” He is back in view. “This is Martin O’Toole, I cannot believe this. The World Trade Center buildings have collapsed. I just…I cannot believe this. Oh my G-d, Oh my G-d. What about the people? There are thousands…still…trapped….I -” Martin O’Toole is speechless, he begins to cry on Live Television.
The night drags in slowly, we cannot tear ourselves away from the screen, the images…
A sick feeling creeps into my stomach. Every news report, in every language, ranging from Afrikaans to Zulu to French reports the destruction and terrorism that ripples through the world. For days, weeks and even months, new stories develop. Miracles of how people made it out alive.
Every day for the next two weeks we say Tehillim together for the safe return of all those trapped under the rubble. I find out our family friends brother had run late with his Morning Prayers. He was still in Shul when the plane hit his building. Many of his colleagues were not so lucky. We feel for all those lost. We are numb for days.
Soon new footage is released. It is of the Taliban, celebrating, singing, laughing and rejoicing. Every year while the world remembers and mourns, they celebrate this day as a victory in their history. Their horrific battle against the West. The World with America mourns the loss of thousands.
I am at a loss at the brutality of these events. I can still feel the pain…a screeching pain for those who have lost loved ones. A pain that will never cease. I cry when I see the video’s, the way that I remember. I am scarred. Life will never be the same.
Even now, as I look back on that tragic day I still think to myself… In those situations, does an individual ever come to terms with the blurred lines that we are presented with, those that represent what is fiction and what is reality? This concept is almost impossible to grasp.