Here in Australia, today is the 10th anniversary of the day the world as we knew it changed. Forever.
I will never, ever forget the moment those haunting images first assaulted my mind and challenged my sense of reality.
My eldest daughter was just 7 months old at the time and was fast asleep in her cot and I was curled up in bed reading a book, when the telephone rang. It was sufficiently late at night (almost 11pm) that a chill went through me as I heard the phone...nobody calls that late unless there has been some sort of tragegy. Little did I realise the scale of the tragedy and that the horror was only just beginning.
I answered the phone with a sense of dread. It was my big sister telling me to turn on the television, that something unbelievable had happened, a plane had flown in to one of the towers of the World Trade Centre in New York. You see, at that time very little was know or yet released to the world's media about what was actually happening. I turned on the TV and held the phone in one hand, the remote control in the other. It was on every channel. Smoke billowing out of the side of the tower in an ugly black plume.
I remember saying to my sister....how the hell do you accidently hit a building that enormous? You can hardly claim not to have seen it or know it was there. The next thought of course was, oh God, there were probably people working in those offices, what happened to them? A million thoughts swirled around in my head in the blink of an eye. Who was flying that plane and what happened, surely the pilot had a heart attack, stoke, some sort of something that rendered him or her unable to control the plane? (At that point it was still being reported that it was a small plane and our assumption was that it was single occupant).
Then, horror of horrors we watched as another plane approached the second tower. I think I said to my sister "here comes another plane and if it isn't careful it will collide with the building too". As that second plane impacted the building, disappearing inside of it, I remember actually jumping like you do when you hear an unexpected loud noise. Then the tears began as the realisation dawned that this and obviously the first was no accident, that people had done this deliberately. Whilst my mind reluctantly accepted the what, I simply could not get my head around the why.
At some point I ended the call with my sister but I still do not remember actually doing it, I may have just hung up on her or her on me. I sat and watched the horror unfold. The one image out of all those awful images on that day that will stay with me forever and still now makes me feel sick to my stomach is the sight of people willingly flinging themselves out of the Towers, knowing full well that they are leaping to their deaths. How bad must it have been inside those buildings that this was best option? Human desire to survive is strong yet these people had no other option but to embrace certain death.
As our evening turned to early morning we watched, across the nation as those towers came down, seeming to fall in on themselves and then tumble in a huge cloud of dust and debris. 12 seconds that seemed to go on forever. We all knew that there were thousands of people still inside, we all had watched as police and emergency services personnel tore inside and knew they were never coming out again. I never thought it possible to grieve so much for people I didn't know but in hindsight I was also grieving for a nation, for the world and innocence lost forever.
By this time we knew that these were not light aircraft, that they were passenger planes full of people going about their lives, in a very wrong place at the very worst time.
More and more images and stories bombarded our minds and hearts, the Pentagon and the fourth plane which slammed in to the ground, short of its target and instinct told me that in this case, brave men and women had managed to somehow fight back, sacrificing themselves to prevent even further loss of innocent life. What must it have been like, knowing your life was about to end and there was nothing you could do to prevent it? Making those calls to loved ones, saying goodbye?
There is more I would like to say, about the backlash against muslims everywhere, how the media is perpetuating the hate and mistrust but that is for another entry. Today is for the men, women and children who died this day 10 years ago and for the families, friends and loved-ones left behind.
Rest in peace and may we all work to achieve peace on earth.