SEPTEMBER 11, 2006
Five years ago our world changed forever. Where were you on September 11, 2001?
I remember being woken up very early by my friend who said "Turn on the TV. Something terrible is happening in New York!" I tuned in just after the first plane had hit the tower and watched in horror the events unfold. It seemed unreal, like I was watching a disaster movie, not something that was actually happening. Later when I got the bus to work everyone seemed frozen in shock. Nobody was talking. It was all too unbelievable. All through the day, whenever we could at the daycare we checked to see what else was unfolding. Not only the two planes that hit the World Trade Centre towers, but one had dive-bombed into the Pentagon and another was taken down in a field killing all on board in spite of the valiant attempts by passengers to stop the terrorists. For days the pictures played and replayed and those images are now indelible in everyone's mind. I especially remember (still with horror) the couple, hand-in-hand plunging head first down from the top floors, the people waving white flags, the sight of those tall buildings crumbling like sand castles. Unbelievable!
That night I saw my friend Anibal. He too was stunned. But he also told me that it was a particular shock to him because on exactly that date in 1973 he recalled walking to work and seeing the war planes bomb the communications towers in Santiago Chile. They also bombed the Presidential Palace, killing Salvadore Allende, the socialist president who had been elected in a democratic vote by the people. Those planes were CIA/US sponsored war planes and Santiago was under seige by the military. As a result of the coup thousands of Chileans were raped, tortured, and murdered. My friend Anibal was on Pinochet's 'hit-list' and somehow managed to escape with his family to Argentina. I didn't know about 9/11 in Chile until that day and from then on I read all I could, watched videos, and got educated about what the U.S. role was in that military coup that resulted in so many deaths, family tragedies, and people like Anibal having to be exiled for years from the country they loved.
I grew up during the second World War as well, when thousands of people were killed every day and watched, horrified, the mushroom cloud rising over Hiroshima the day the Americans dropped the atom bomb.
War is a terrible thing. And this is the new 'war' -- terrorism. Those events that happened on September 11, 2001 have changed our world forever and changed the lives of those people who live in New York City.
I just experienced my third visit to that fabulous city. I noticed the change, not only in the security, the safeness, the cleanness of the City, but in the people. They seem quieter, kinder, more patient. I felt safe and happy there and felt it was a privilege to visit once again.
I had thought to go to Ground Zero, but decided not to because the City was filling up with others who had come specifically for the commemoration services and we knew that it would be very crowded at the site, and best left to those who had come to mourn loved ones or to pay their respects to those who died trying to save lives. Instead, we went on the round Manhattan boat cruise, and viewed Ground Zero from the River -- that huge gap between the skyscrapers.
When I first came to New York in 1968 they were just starting to build the World Trade Centre towers. I remember asking what the construction was. The next time I visited, the towers were there, rising like two massive glass sentinals overlooking the City. Now they are gone and that day will stay indelible in our minds. Those who died there will never be forgotten.
And we who live will carry on, try some way to find Peace in our World. Whatever happens, we must not let these evil terrorists defeat us or take away our freedom.