Sunday, September 11, 2011

Looking Back

Patriot's Day.  Ten years on.  Our remembrances.


9/11, as it’s now known, was a chilling and terrible day in the USA. I knew immediately that the first plane to hit the Towers could not have been accidental. Not a plane that size. Perhaps that’s because I lived and worked in London in the 80’s where the streets were cordoned off on a weekly basis, and every time your tube train stopped in a black tunnel, there was instant unease all around. I knew terrorism when I saw it. Part of the horror in the US was the utter disbelief that anyone could do so much harm to so many people - deliberately.

My heart bleeds for the families of everyone who died on that awful day ten years ago.
And yes, the country came together under the leadership of George Bush. I’ll never forget his message – “And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation in every region now has a decision to make: Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.”

I’ll be honest, I was really pissed off with those words! This from the country that had not only embraced the IRA, but Noraid, its US funding arm, was a registered charity in the USA. Bush declared the beginning of the “war on terror” as if Baader Meinhof, ETA, the UDA and the IRA (to name but a few) had never existed. America’s “war on terror” immediately became a global call to arms.

I’m sure it was thoughtlessness on the part of George Bush but on behalf of everyone who’d ever lived in the shadow of terrorism, I was insulted.


I was on-line booking a flight when news of the first airplane hitting the towers popped up. It caused concern, but not much; I had read accounts of the airplane that had hit the Empire State Building, and I assumed this was something similar—an inexperienced pilot in a small aircraft. The Empire State Building had survived, so would the tower.

Still, a disquiet grew inside me. I abandoned the transaction (and never went back to it—I decided to drive) and waited. For what, I didn’t know. For the Doctor to come back with the results saying it isn’t cancer after all? For the news that a loved one who had been in an accident was, in fact, all right? I suppose I was waiting, anticipating that most American of results: don’t worry; everything is going to be all right.

But it wasn’t. As more news filtered in it became clear the damage was extensive and that many people had died, or were about to. Then the second plane hit and I—along with many other Americas—finally accepted the fact that this was not a horrific catastrophe, but an organized attack, and that the future was suddenly a very different, and scarier, place.

I watched the towers fall with my co-workers, watched their tears, felt the emptiness inside, sat at my desk, numb. When we were sent home I drove through eerily empty streets and arrived home to more horrific news.

In the days that followed, I would sit on my balcony, watching in the distance where airliners used to crease the sky with jet trails as they landed or took off from Albany airport. But the sky remained empty, a vacant reminder of the tragedy. For days, I saw nothing, then a single plane took off, and I wondered if things were, at last, beginning to get back to normal.

The plane flew fast, much faster than a commercial jet. It rose sharply, made a series of tight circles in the sky, then landed. It was, I realized , a military fighter jet, and I wondered, if this was the new reality.

But that’s just my story; there are billions of others.


  1. Toni, I really appreciate hearing your point of view - mine is more similar to Mike's. It was an unforgettable day.

  2. As a European, I have a similar point of view as you, Toni. The distance allows me some objectivity.

  3. I agree with Toni. I used to travel to work through Waterloo Station and never a day passed without the fear that THIS might be the day the IRA would kill me. My blood used to boil when I read about New York and Boston firemen and police collecting for the IRA, and US judges refusing to send terrorist back to the UK for trial.


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