Fifteen years ago the world stood still for not just moments. Nobody could understand what happened and why two planes would fly directly into the Twin Towers in New York. Many people, when watching it later on TV, thought it was a scene developed and shot for a movie. I had been in New York some years before and was taken into one of those towers. Today I want to write about what I felt at the time when they came crumbling down.
A small basement type bookshop in Dundarave (West Vancouver, Canada), loved by readers and writers alike, had a section with comfortable chairs where one could peruse the newest books and another section with small tables and chairs where herbal tea was served. This is where I was sitting, sipping my chamomile tea. I don’t remember if they served cookies or something to nibble on. Another reader joined me since there was no other empty table. It’s weird, but in Canada, everybody tries to sit at their “own” table. In Europe, people would ask to join someone to have and maybe also provide company. They relish meeting new people. We chatted away about the books we had just checked out when all of a sudden the clitter-clatter and the noise of the boiling water at the serving counter and even the soft background music stopped. It was eery, still, and the person at the kettle stood there, with a white face and wide open eyes, staring into nowhere. Just a few minutes ago she had gone to serve someone on the little outside terrace.
She half whispered, “Oh my God! They have bombed the Twin Towers in New York. Maybe Vancouver is next. The USA is at war.”
Everybody stared at her and it was me who finally broke the spell and asked: “How do you know?”
“The radio. Someone outside is listening to a radio and it was just announced. Both towers came down and thousands of people must be dead. There are so many offices…Some airplanes flew right into the buildings. Suicide bombers. They tried the Pentagon too but I don’t know more…” She changed the channel on her music system and turned up the volume and we all heard it announced. At first, we all sat there like deer caught in headlights and then all hell broke loose. People jumped up from the tea as well as the reading section and crowded the poor lady, we all wanted to pay as fast as we could to get home and watch the news on television. To make it faster some just threw dollar bills onto the counter, not waiting for change.
I ran out the back door to the Seawall, a wonderful walkway along the Pacific Ocean since it was faster and closest to my apartment building. I met my friend Inga on the way and she knew a bit more already. She had left her apartment after watching the news. She just couldn’t stand it indoors. She was more than excited and started talking about an interesting book she was in the process of reading. Apparently, Nostradamus had predicted this and other events back in the fifteenth century. I asked her if I could borrow the book when she was finished. She promised to lend it to me providing I gave it back after three days. Then we parted.
I sat glued to my couch for the rest of the day and watched the news over and over and over again. The announcer explained that a couple had taken a video while standing on the balcony of their hotel not far from the towers. By chance, they caught everything on their camera. They had handed the video over to the New York News team that soon turned up at the scene. They were interviewed and couldn’t even fathom what they had just photographed. And no, they didn’t want any money for the video. Those planes flying directly into the towers and the towers crumbling was hard to stomach. It really could have been a horror movie.
I remember how the news people tried to put a spin on the news about why, and who, and what, when they showed a clip of President Bush sitting on a small bench in a Kindergarten class in Florida, surrounded by kids. A man, maybe a bodyguard, came in and whispered something into his ear. President Bush’ face was uncomprehending, his mouth fell open, his eyes had an empty expression. It was not a picture anyone would want to see of their President. He seemed helpless, shocked, did not know what to say or do.
Now fifteen years have come and gone since this horrible happening. The place where those two towers, once so important for the New York skyline, stood is a wonderful rebuilt area with a Museum and other attractions. What shocked me today was the information that there are still people who maintain that it was all pre-planned and organized by the government with President Bush involved; even to the extent that the two “planes” were just holographic images.
Just recalling his expression in the Kindergarten when he first heard of it I feel strongly that this is absolute rubbish.
I just read your 9/11 blog and found it fascinating. I have never given any deep thought to how other countries reacted…other than presidents and other dignitaries. I suppose that sounds rather shallow, but I was consumed with thoughts only about my country….and extremely frightened.
I had been in my basement, walking on my treadmill (also called dreadmill). I always watched TV when I exercised. I had finished my session, turned off the TV and walked upstairs. The phone rang. It was my friend, Carol. “Did you see what happens? Oh my God! Did you see?” I had no idea what she was talking about but it soon became clear that in the two minutes it took me to walk up from the basement, a horrific, world shattering, catastrophe had taken place. We spent the next half hour crying. I live about 45 minutes from Manhattan. She is even closer.
I spent the next weeks crying….walking around in a funk….looking at signs that individuals had stuck in the ground…signs professing their love of America. People painted their cars to look like the American flag. Virtually every car on the road had flags attached to their antennas. The entire population was in mourning. And one by one by one we learned of people we knew who had died that day…people who worked in the Towers, people who weren’t supposed to go into work that day but did, and died. People who were supposed to go into work that day but stayed out because they were sick. Hundreds of stories evolved like an unfolding nightmare.
Thank you for your blog. It was extremely interesting to know how people in another country reacted.