On the eve of 9/11

Where were you the morning of September 11, 2001? No doubt you still remember exactly what you were doing when you learned about what was unfolding in New York City that day.

I was on my way to work, and on the bus I heard the first uneasy murmurs. Something about a plane crashing into a tower. I didn’t know what kind of plane, which tower. At the time I was living in Langley, British Columbia: an area of long, green hills, fields, orchards, and horse-dotted paddocks. So, country bumpkin that I was, I imagined a crop duster flying into a water tower or grain silo.

Photo credit: http://www.andrewkelsall.com

When I got to downtown Vancouver I passed a man yelling into his phone, “Mom, I’m okay!  I’m not in New York!”  People clustered around TV monitors in shop windows and building lobbies, or around radios with the volume turned way up. And so I learned the awful truth: two commercial jets had crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre. Where my dad had bought my mom a watch years ago. Where a friend of mine had visited just months before, and wondered idly what would happen if a building of this size had to be evacuated in the event of an emergency. Where two of my relatives – one on each side of the family – went to work everyday.

I didn’t get any work done that day, nor any sleep that night. I don’t suppose a lot of people did.

We learned later that my family members were both safe – for different reasons, they were both late coming in to work that Monday morning. But a client of my father’s was in New York on business that week, and on September 11 he was assigned to work in an office in one of the towers. He was never heard from again.

I saw a documentary on television last year, all about the World Trade Centre, from its inception by the Rockefeller brothers, through the saga of its construction, and the charming and breath-taking sidebar story of Philippe Petit’s epic walk across a tightrope strung between the towers, 400 meters above the street…to that fateful morning when the towers came crashing down. I wept during that part.

I thank God my family was kept safe during that horrible time. I get worried now, when I see the words “bomb” and “New York” in the same headline – as they did a few months ago. I pray, especially at this time of year, for the people who never came home from work that day, and for their families.

I think there is much need for healing and forgiveness. I don’t think building a mosque near the 9/11 site is the most appropriate way to do it. And I definitely don’t think that any Koran-burning is called for, either.

I know there are no easy answers. Maybe in the end we will all understand each other, and maybe then we will stop putting each other through so much fear and pain.

In the meantime, we do what we can, and we carry on.