Its funny how you can remember exact details about certain events. I can remember every single event up until I went to sleep the night my daughter was born in March 2001. The morning in June 2003 when I was saved, I can remember every detail about that. Yet, I can’t remember exactly what went down on the weekend – not because I was under the influence of anything, or because I was asleep, but because it just doesn’t matter.
One such morning was September 11th 2001. Everyone knows September 11 – the single worst terorist attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor, and even then, easily twice as disastrous. Just like any normal day for New York City – at least, until 8.45 when the first of 2 hijacked planes flew into the World Trade Center towers.
For me, September 11th, 2001, was just like any other work day – I was living at home then, trying to sleep that extra 5 minutes. I was startled awake by Mum, who came in blabbering something about the news, so I got out of bed and roughly got dressed (I say roughly because I’m not a morning person). I walked out to the lounge and sat down in front of the television.
The first thing I saw was the newscaster – Mike Hosking wasn’t hosting Breakfast that day, it was like a permanent news broadcast. I still didn’t really know what was going on. Then they played the footage – slow motion video of a passenger jet flying straight into one of the trade center towers – and the other one was already smoking, presumably suffering the same fate.
I remember feeling sick. I mean, if terrorists could do that, then surely terrorists could do whatever they wanted. They played the footage over and over (and even from several different angles). It was like some kind of weird movie – that was just how unreal it seemed. Otherworldly, as if Steven Spielberg was directing, and any minute now, the title of the movie would pop up on screen.
I remember it was hard to get ready for work that day. I was working at Igrin Internet at the time, and I spent a large part of the day reading CNN.com and Stuff.co.nz trying to understand what exactly had happened. 2 planes had gone into the towers. 1 had crashed into the Pentagon. A fourth had gone down in Pennsylvania (theories ranged from “It was heading to the White House” to “It was heading for New York”).
I remember frantically refreshing the news page every few minutes to see what else was happening. The first tower collapsed – then we moved a TV into the office. The second tower collapsed, and the news showed footage of terrified New Yorkers running for their lives. The scene was like something out of a movie where a nuclear bomb has gone off. It just didn’t seem real.
By the end of the day, about 4000 people had lost their lives, and September 11th was being heralded as the worst singled terrorist attack in the history of mankind. It was being listed with Hitlers massacre of millions of Jews, and other similarly horrific atrocities. George W Bush went on TV and made the bravest, and probably hardest, speech any president has ever had to make.
Its hard to believe its been 3 years since that happened. When I think back, it seems like yesterday. I still get the nauseating feeling in my gut. And then I think of all that has happened since – the war in Afghanistan, the US occupation of Iraq. I think of the changes – heightened security at public events, heightened security on passenger flights. And if you think the rest of the world wasn’t affected, you need only read some stastistics about security at the Athens Olympics to figure out that it was.
Some people believe the US handled the situation badly, or that George W Bush has made many mistakes in the years since, but I think that, given the cards he was dealt, Bush handled things about as well as he could. He was an angry father looking for retribution for what had happened. The war in Afghanistan wasn’t an attack to get to Bin Laden – it was an all-out attack on anyone who supported terrorism in any way, shape or form.
Given the same situation, would any of us have handled things differently?