Sunday, September 11, 2011
WTC1 new Tower construction, May 2011.
Quick warning: There is some graphic content in this post.
Can you believe ten years have passed since the world changed forever? I can't. We all know where we were when it all went down. I was 23, working as a counselling supervisor with Lifeline. It was late at night, Australian time, I was on the phone to a friend and watched the plane hit, but didn't register that it wasn't just a movie. J came in and said "it's the pentagon too, this is huge." I still didn't really register. I watched the news for a while before going to sleep, I had a plane to catch early the next morning for work, to Canberra for Lifeline's annual conference. The airport was like nothing I had ever seen before, nor since. It was SO quiet. So sombre. There were televisions on and all had CNN live streaming. It was sort of scary to board a plane and head for Australia's capital city. At that point there were predictions of all kinds of terror on western society.
In the years that have passed since, I have been morbidly fascinated with events from the day. I have read every book I can find on it, watched many documentaries and accessed endless internet articles, videos and photos. Recently, I watched a documentary interview with some survivors, ten years on. What fascinated me more than the stories of escape and horror ("I crawled over a man with no head, just a spinal column sticking out 3-4 inches from his neck" and from someone at the Pentagon - "there were body parts floating in the water, I wanted to take them out, it was the only chance. A small hand floated past, there was nowhere to put it so I put it in my pocket. I was so angry...") but more than that was how they were affected in the time since. Nightmares, reliving certain scenes, one man said he couldn't cope in confined spaces, and still struggled to go to a movie theatre.
In the time after 9/11 but before having children, I seriously considered becoming a Critical Incident Stress Debriefer and working with first responders. I still sort of would like to... But it's unlikely. Hearing these stories made me think about it. I cannot comprehend how people see these things, in real life, and continue living a normal life. How do you process it and carry that around forever? One survivor made my heart ache when he said "living with it is my penance for surviving when others didn't." That made me so sad, that he feels guilty for his survival.
There's no doubt September 11 changed the 'safe' world we live in. It took away our innocence, and reminded us we are ALL potential targets. The horror and raw anger of it impacted everyone who has seen that footage. We all still feel emotional about that day, to some extent. Even those of us a world away. Those lives will never be forgotten. Those that saved the final target, and took the plane down in Shanksville, heroes is an overused word, but this was true heroism.
In May of this year, I went to New York City. My first stop was the World Trade Centre and the memorial. The new memorial was obviously not opened, but I could see it under construction, along with the new WTC1 Tower. I wandered through the memorial across the road. Saw the photos, read the stories, saw remnants of steel, uniforms, and personal effects that had been recovered. I was emotional. So many names. Given how much I had read and watched about the day, I thought I would have some sort of grasp after going to the site, but I didn't. It still didn't seem real. I don't think it ever will. (edit: I dreamt I was there last night, considered not publishing this post, felt wrong using the graphic details. But, it's real. Pretending it didn't happen, doesn't make it not so).
How religion fits into all of this is a topic for another post, but today is for remembering.