Wow…time seems to be flying too quickly, as always, and as I get back to serious writing in the fall, the date struck me a few days ago, and I was shocked to realize that today is not only the anniversary of September 11, but it is the SIXTEENTH anniversary of it. Sixteen years? Is that possible? I think it is one of the most striking moments of our history, one of two in my lifetime, the other being the assassination of John F. Kennedy when I was still a kid in school. Others have compared 9/11 to Pearl Harbour, when America was attacked on its own turf, and it catapulted us into World War II. I suppose the beginning of every war is that way, whether the First World War, or the Second. Fortunately 9/11 did not lead to a war but was certainly a life changing event for all of us.
As with the Kennedy assassination, I think all of us remember where we were when we heard about 9/11. I was in bed, asleep in California, around 6 am, some of my kids were still young then, so I had a nanny to help me with them. It was around 9 am in the East. And the nanny I had was a sweet woman, she was English, and had that very dry, crisp style that some English women have. She came into my bedroom and woke me up, and said in a strong official voice, “America is under attack. I thought you should know”. Thought I should know?? Was she kidding? But no one kids about something like that. I woke up instantly and sat up and asked what she meant by “under attack”. I had visions of New York being bombed. I had a daughter in New York at the time, and another one in Washington, DC. I turned on the TV, just in time to see the second tower go down. And I was finally able to reach my daughter in DC, and asked if she was okay. She sounded mystified, and had no idea what had happened. She lived relatively close to the Pentagon, and she looked out the window as we were talking, and couldn’t believe her eyes, as smoke poured out of the Pentagon, after the plane had crashed into it. I would have liked to bring both daughters in the East home to California, but there was no easy way to get them out, since the airports were closed, and stayed closed for many days.
My first thoughts were for my children’s safety, and it took hours to absorb what had happened in a broader sense. Watching the ongoing news on TV, and seeing the building collapse, it looked like a science fiction movie. It just couldn’t be real…..could it? The World Trade Center collapsing? That just wasn’t possible. I watched the news on TV all that day, and little by little it began to sink in. The image of people leaping from the building, some holding hands, is an image I will never forget. So many people affected, so many lives lost, so many dreams shattered on that day. 2,996 people killed, and more than 6,000 wounded. And so many stories of incredible bravery. It truly is a day none of us will ever forget, nor should we. And that incredible feeling of having been invaded, violated, attacked on our home turf. Where do you feel safe after that?
I spent the entire day watching TV with friends, and one of them said “This is going to change everything, our lives will never be the same again”. I thought that was an exaggerated statement, and couldn’t see what he meant. But with hindsight, I know now that he was 100% right. Travel has changed radically, and the rules at airports get more stringent every day. It’s a good thing, and ultimately protects us from another 9/11, but it’s a sad statement about our world, that some people have evil intentions and want to hurt the rest of us. (We have seen smaller versions of it in many countries, including our own for the past sixteen years). It has certainly made travel infinitely more complicated, all the safety measures we go through now, that didn’t exist before….and the concerns, the fears. My children always call me now before a flight, just to tell me that they love me, they started doing that after 9/11, and I always know that they’re not just saying I love you, they’re saying goodbye in case they never call again. What a terrible thought. And I call them before I fly too, for the same reason. We never discuss the reasoning behind the call, we just do it. But there is an instant when I last see them, before they fly somewhere, or I do, when we cling to each other for just an extra second or two, in case it’s our last chance to do so.
Like any act of terrorism or violence, 9/11 has marked us. The scars will always be there, for the families and survivors of the brave men and women who died there. We heal in time, but there is no question, an event of that magnitude is life changing in every possible way. Historically, personally, nationally, internationally. It was a terrible, terrible event.
I couldn’t let this day go by without acknowledging it—-without sending my deepest sympathy and tender compassion to those who lived through it, and the families and loved ones of those who didn’t. I hope nothing like it ever happens again. I’m sure we all hope that. May our prayers be heard for a more peaceful world.
With deepest condolences, yet again 16 years later, and all my love, Danielle