What can be said about today that hasn’t already been said a thousand times? The awful events of 9/11 will live with us forever. The scars & pain of the families & friends affected will always remain. It breaks my heart every time I think about it. I am not going to attempt to write about something I have no direct knowledge of, but in the memory of the innocent, the brave & the loved, I will reflect on how their tragically shortened lives impacted my own.
I wasn’t directly connected to the events, nor did I know anyone that was. I didn’t even live in the country at the time, yet 9/11 will always be tied to the story of my life. For many people, there are tragedies that you are not directly involved in that hit you in ways that others do not, JFK, Princess Diana, Lockerbie, you name it & there are doubtless folks affected by it.
There are many reasons that I can consciously describe as to how 12 years on 9/11 still affects me in a way that you would expect only someone who was directly connected to. There is of course the fact that it was America, New York. The country I had grown up infatuated with, New York, home to most of the entertainment figures that were in some form or another my heroes & role models. I also worked at the time for an American company, I had daily communication with my colleagues across the pond.
The single biggest reason though was 2 weeks prior I had been in the States, visiting Texas. It was in that week that my wife & I got engaged & the decision was made for me to spend the foreseeable future, if not the rest of my life living in America. The week before 9/11 we had filed the papers for my K-1 fiancée visa application. Now the home of my future had been attacked, I can honestly say that I never felt solidarity for a country & a people like I did for America that day.
The strange thing for me being in England at the time is that the attacks were in the afternoon, not the beginning of the day like it was for the people in the States. I was at a training seminar in a hotel in the west of London, somewhere near Heathrow (if I recall correctly). One of my colleagues got a text at around 3pm advising her of the first attack, when a follow up text came about the 2nd attack, we were all just stunned, not knowing what to make of it, was it even real? Fortunately she had a laptop, we scrambled around the room to find a phone outlet to get the modem plugged in & read the news on the internet (my how technology & information accessibility has changed in the last 12 years).
Once we verified that this was real, the class ended, how could anyone think about work at this time? Those of us who were not local adjourned to the hotel bar where they had the news on the big screen. We sat there in silence for hours just trying to take it in, trying to figure out what was next. I kept trying to call my then fiancee to make sure she was ok, at the time I had no way of knowing if this was localized to the east coast or if Dallas was under attack too. The phone circuits were constantly full (understandably so), eventually she got through to me, the calming voice of the one I loved making an awful evening seem better, even if she was 5000 miles away.
To this day I cannot comprehend the pain of those who never saw their spouse again, their father or mother etc etc. What of those who were in a hurry that morning & didn’t leave with a kiss, or who had an argument over how the dishwasher was loaded. I get lost in the documentaries every year at this time, trying to feel their pain, their grief, these people that I will never meet but I feel eternally connected to. My heart will always break for you, all of you, my prayers will always be with you & if in some small way I can ever help, I will always be here for you.
6 months on & despite a long & tedious process slowed down by needed changes in immigration procedures, I finally moved to America, to begin my new life in the land of dreams, the home of the free. One more immigrant to add to the long list.
This great country was hurt by that day, but this great country survives & despite its flaws continues to show the world how great a people can be, especially when they need to be. For the best example of that, all we ever need to do is look at the wonderful people of New York.