I didn’t realise it at the time, but when the Twin Towers were hit, I was at school, having lunch with my friends and teacher. I didn’t hear the news until my Mum picked me up and the radio came on to tell us that the Twin Towers in New York had collapsed after two planes had hit each tower. One more plane had hit the Pentagon while the fourth plane, headed for Washington D.C, had landed in a field. It was a well-organised, well-planned attack and after watching the replays at home that night, I saw the full scale of what had happened.
At the time, I was still a child having just turned 10 the week before with only the barest concept of the world outside. I wasn’t really interested in what happened outside the family, a few friends and school. I didn’t really watch television except to watch cartoons and newspapers tended to be reading exercises than anything else. Before 9/11, I didn’t really know what went on in the world I lived in.
It’s strange to consider it as such, but 9/11 woke me up. As my parents would put it, it shook me out of my ignorance. There was a whole world outside that I barely knew about. I’d vaguely heard of New York but never really gone farther than that. As for international terrorism, I never considered it. It never occurred to me that there were people out there who wanted to kill innocent people to make a point. The images I saw were horrendous, seeing the smoking towers, the twisted wreckage after they collapsed and all the people caught up in the chaos.
That was the worst part, seeing the firefighters and workers trying to work through the smoke and ash to find survivors. I’d never seen such devastation before. It was heartbreaking for a 10-year-old to watch for the first time. I remember sitting on the floor, watching the images when my Dad asked me if I was all right.
“No. No, I’m not.” I turned to him. “All those people…”
He didn’t say anything. Maybe he couldn’t. How can you possibly begin to even comprehend such a thing? It all felt so unreal like it wasn’t really happening and yet it was.
My parents had seen international terrorism before, heard plenty on the news of the Irish separatists back in the 70s and 80s, but this was something new and even more deadly. The IRA gave out warnings, but these bombers didn’t. They struck without warning and by their actions, killed over 3,000 people. I’d never seen anything like it before, but after it happened, I started paying attention to the news and doing some background research here and there, picking up everything I could. It wasn’t hard at times: it spread through the school and everyone had something to say about it.
The thing that really struck me was that that fact that there were people out there, real living people who had so much hatred in their heart and so much anger that they were willing to sacrifice their lives to kill thousands of others for a God who specifically condemned such actions. I found it hard to understand why people should feel such reckless hate, such malice. What causes someone to decide that killing themselves and their fellow man is the best way to make a point? It’s a hard thing for a 10-year-old, brought up on the idea of understanding others and helping people out, to grasp.
In the days and weeks afterwards, I saw the heroism and the cowardice, the selfless acts and the shameful use of attacks to score political points. I felt the constant state of tensions and heightened awareness, especially after Britain suffered its own brutal attacks in 7/7 when London was rocked by a series of explosions a few year afterwards. The fact that my Dad worked in London at the time bought the reality much closer to home. More than anything, I realised 9/11 was an attempt to divide people through violence and twisted ideology, an attempt that will always fail as long as people hold true to
More than anything, 9/11 was an attempt to divide people through violence and twisted ideology, an attempt that will always fail as long as people hold true to ideas like loving your neighbour as yourself and the value of letting people have a say in government. As long as people reject the hate that terrorists attempt to prey on and respond with love and understanding to those in need, it will make all the difference in the world.
For the sake of those who lost their lives, we must always strive to let love and hope conquer all. We will always honour and remember them by building a better world.