September 11th, 2001, has already gone down in history as a day that shocked much of the world. Much has been written and said about the events of that day and the days that followed. It seems perhaps futile to write anything more about what Americans now call "9|11."
In the days that followed those horrific acts of terrorism, I chose not to write anything about what had happened. Like so many people I was lost for words to express my horror and sadness. I felt that anything I wrote would simply come out as words bathed in emotion and anger at an unseen enemy.
A year later and I am still not sure that anything I write on the subject would be worth reading. I wasn't there, I didn't know anyone there, I knew no-one personally affected. So my connection is distant, to say the least.
I feel like I don't have the right to feel grief and sadness over what happened in New York, Washington DC, and Pennsylvania. I don't want to be seen as one of those people who becomes dramatically inconsolable when someone they hardly knew dies. Most of what I felt and still feel about what happened has been hidden away so that people don't think that I am somehow trying to gain attention from someone else's tragedy. Perhaps this is how most of the 'unaffected' were affected.
For weeks after September 11th, 2001 I had terrible nightmares involving hijacked planes and buildings. I often woke up in the middle of the night and simply failed to settle again. I would hear a jet go over the head and do what I think many did in the immediate aftermath, look to see where it was and what it was doing. I live in the flight path of Liverpool airport and often see planes flying low on their approach to or ascent from the airport. It took quite a while for the sight of a low flying aircraft not to send a shiver down my spine.
Though it might seem odd to say, I can't really tell you why I felt such a connection to those involved in this dark moment of history. After all, people die violently every single day and most of the time we just sit there viewing it all in prime time detachment. It's the news, and as tragic, sad or horrible as that may be, it's still just the news.
September the 11th was different. It seemed like everything else in the world just stopped. Everyone who was anywhere near a TV or radio was just transfixed, standing there helplessly watching an unimaginable act of evil unfold before their very eyes.
I sat alone in my lounge and watched thousands of normal people die a gruesome death. I had a connection with America and New York, I'd stood on the roof of one of those towers, I knew from personal experience just how tall these towers were. By 2:30 UK time, they were gone forever. America was under attack, on its knees and all I could do was sit there and watch my TV. I felt useless. I wanted to help, but what could I do?
Over the next few days and weeks, the media bombarded us with image after image of the devastation. Recorded telephone messages from people caught in the towers calling their loved ones were played, as were the exchanges between the terrorist pilots and air traffic control. Every aspect of the atrocity was played out in detail for us to decipher for ourselves if indeed that were even possible.
Eventually, I simply couldn't take any more. I stopped watching the news on about the 14th. But the images of the planes hitting the buildings and of the desperate people taking the hopeless decision to jump from the burning towers still haunted my thoughts. I would close my eyes and they would be there.
Of course, daily life eventually returned to normal. I remember being shocked as to just how quickly it did. But what else should I have expected? Tragedies happen, life goes on, that's how it's always been and will always be. Indeed it couldn't be any other way, but still, it seemed strange to me in some way.
Eleven months later I visited the former site of the World Trade Center in New York, now called Ground Zero. I went there looking for something, some peace maybe. I wanted to find something there that would help me come to terms with all of this. Something that would make sense of the impact it has had on the City and me personally. I am not sure what I thought I would find there, whatever it was, I never found it.
Ground Zero was simply a sixteen-acre building site in the heart of Lower Manhattan. Evidence of what had happened there was almost impossible to find. I felt no connection whatsoever, instead I just felt empty. I'd made the journey to Ground Zero to find something that in the end simply wasn't there, and if it wasn't there then I had no idea where it would be.
A nearby church still had thousands of tributes covering its railings. I stood there and read some of the words now fading with time. A tribute to a Charles Edward Jones who had been a passenger on flight 11, the first plane to hit one of the towers. Words from firefighters from all over the United States speaking to their lost 'brothers.' A picture of a young man with a message next to it saying "Happy 24th Birthday Jimmy Quinn. We love you."
One message read "Our Prayers are with you. I can't believe how hard this is for everyone. Always remember though that GOD is in control, he has a plan through all of this and we are praying that something great will come out of all of this. For we live through hope in Christ Jesus, he will take care of everything."
Perhaps that's true, and to a point, I envy those who have that kind of faith. To say God has a plan is all well and good I suppose, but the hijackers also believed they were carrying out God's plan didn't they? Of course, about the only person who hasn't mentioned September 11th is God himself. He has, as ever, remained silent on the whole issue, instead of allowing man to twist 'his words' into something as disgusting and hateful as we witnessed that beautiful American Tuesday morning. It makes me all the more sad that in the places where there should perhaps be answers and peace, there are simply just more questions and excuses.
If God is watching then I hope he was as sickened as I was.