9/11

On September 11th, 2001, I was home with my two children, then aged five and two. My husband was away with work, and at around 11.00pm, I was lying in bed with the television on, watching Channel 10’s late night news. Sandra Sully was delivering the headlines, and suddenly breaking news was announced, and the screen shifted to vision of smoke plumes streaming out of one of the buildings of the World Trade Centre. The word was that a light plane had flown into the building, but even then, I was wondering how a small plane could cause so much damage. Channel Ten toggled between Australian news and what was happening in New York, and on one cross back to the scene, I saw a large passenger plane fly behind the South Tower, and then just disappear. Smoke began streaming, and my first thought was ‘this is no accident, it’s a terrorist attack.’

For the next three and a half hours, I lay there, fixed to the screen, watching first the South Tower, and then the North, come crashing down. What I was witnessing was unthinkable. Those towers represented the might of the United States, a nation that seemed impenetrable. Reports were coming in that people were jumping from the towers. Again, unthinkable. The news shifted to the Pentagon, where something had happened to cause a huge rupture in another symbol of the might of the USA. As news came in that another plane had been hijacked and was heading to Washington DC, it seemed that we were potentially on the brink of World War III. I surrendered to sleep,  knowing that the world that would meet me in the daylight would be markedly different from anything I had ever encountered.

For the next few days, I saw that unthinkable footage over and over, until discussion started to surface that maybe those scenes were too damaging for young eyes, and older eyes too.

My immediate experience of 9/11 was just me and television commentary. I was by myself, my husband was away, and I had no-one to talk through what I was witnessing. 10 years on, I am following Jeff Jarvis’ tweets about his experiences that morning. My twitter stream is full of people’s memories of that day.

@jeffjarvis If we’d had Twitter and cameras and been connected that day, the world’s view of 9/11 would have been at eye-level. #911

@ASE: It was only a matter of a couple weeks after #911 that my name, Ahmed, became problematic while I was in undergrad. #racism

Will never forget the initial puzzled feeling when lined up to give blood and found out–so horrible and telling– there was no need.#911

campbellsuz  The water memorial at Ground Zero looks beautiful; families trace the names of loved ones etched in bronze with pencils and paper#911
My thoughts go to all those affected by this disaster, both in the United States, and in every country with citizens who were involved. I think too, of the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the loss of innocent human life in those countries after 9/11. It has impacted on us all. Our world is different, our approach to life is different. I still think of the potential of a terrorist attack whenever I attend an occasion that brings large swathes of people together. Prior to 9/11, thoughts like these never really crossed my mind.
The world suffers from the actions of the few. Now we are hearing of those in the immediate vicinity on the day who are suffering from lung diseases and cancers from the toxic dust cloud they encountered.
9/11 is a disaster that will continue to haunt us all for many years to come.

School’s out Friday

No funny video today. Too many memories surround this date and I’d rather pay respect to those affected by the 9/11 tragedy by looking at something that recognises the remarkable people who calmly made their way to safety on the day.

This is Michael Hingson and his guide dog, Rozelle. She assisted Michael to make his way down from the 78th floor of one of the World Trade Centre buildings on September 11th, 2001. It’s a moving tale of survival.

I can never forget that day 8 years ago and I’m sure it is the same for all of you. I watched the events of that day late at night on television here in Australia. I happened to be watching the late news and saw the events unfold. I stayed up until after 3.00am because I couldn’t leave the broadcast. It was so awful and compelling; I remember waking numb.

A while after the events of that day I remember reading an article that described the calm and ordered manner the people of New York employed to find their ways home when faced with no regular means of transport. It was described in that article as being on par with the evacuation of Dunkirk in WWII. Rick Spilman has written a post today on The Old Salt Blog, that discusses this very thing.  In it, he recounts his wife’s experiences on the day. She was in a lower floor of one World Trade when the first plane hit. She eventually made her way to Wall Street on the East River where a makeshift ferry service had begun. No fares were accepted on the day.

Rick makes this important observation about the day;

One of the lessons of 9/11 that seems to have been lost was that there was relatively little chaos or panic, on the water or ashore.   Those operating the makeshift rescue fleet worked together – improvising, adapting and doing what was necessary to get the job done.  Likewise, their passengers were overwhelmingly cooperative and calm.   No one was “in control” and there was no single plan, just hundreds of captains, deck hands and engineers who did what they thought they needed to do, under horrible conditions.   If the purpose of terrorism is to terrorize, the terrorists  failed in the waters around New York on 9/11.    

I encourage you to read Rick’s post. This is an important story to relay to our students. Many don’t know how to feel about threats to our safety. If we help our students to realise that people are really quite remarkable in the face of tragedy and extreme conditions, we may be able to help allay fears they have.  Rick makes reference to some research done by Dr. Enrico Quarantelli and Kendra, T. Wachtendorf at Disaster Research Center at the University of Delaware. Their report, entitled, ‘Who was in charge of the massive evacuation of Lower Manhattan by water transport on 9/11? No one was, yet it was an extremely successful operation.’ , is something you should consider using in your classrooms.

To those of you affected personally by this tragedy, my heart goes out to you.