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 an 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's
else's tragedy. Perhaps this is how most of the 'unaffected' were
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 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
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. In fact 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 on 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 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.
Websites related to the events of 9|11:
September 11th : The lost - A list
of the three thousand names of the lost & missing.
- The BBC's website looking back at the events.
TV timeline - Breakdown and archives of BBC TV live news coverage.
- How the world interrupted broadcasts to break the news.
Web archive -
Archived websites breaking the news on 9/11/2001.
Here is New York - A democracy of photographs.