Twenty years ago, a major event occurred in the United States that shook the world. I was reflecting with hubs about this last night, and we both shared our stories of how it affected us when we heard the news. Remember, I’m an Aussie living in Australia and I was only 16 at the time, so my memory may be a little off.
At the time this happened, I was in year 11 (the 2nd last year of high school). Mum was working night shift at a meat factory, and Dad worked as a farm hand. Mum would get home around 3 or 4am and head to bed, while Dad and I would get up at 6am. He’d drop me at my Nan’s so I could have breakfast and finish getting ready for school, and he’d continue on to work. I should mention we lived in the country where I couldn’t just walk to school – it was a 10km drive from our place to the nearest town. Anyways…
Mum always left us notes on the bench, usually just saying that work was shit and she loved us. But this one morning, her note said something like:
“Big terrorist attack in America. Check the news. Bloody scary. Love yas.”
We listened to the news on the radio in the car on the way to Nan’s, but I don’t remember much. It wasn’t until I got to Nan’s that I saw what was happening on the TV. The Today Show was broadcasting live, and was replaying the two smoking towers and the collapse. I was just staring at it in disbelief, unable to comprehend that history was being written at that very moment.
And then at 7:21am (5:21pm Eastern Time US), the World Trade Center collapsed. I’m pretty sure this is what I saw live. I still remember the fear, the shock, and what I didn’t know at the time, the anxiety.
All day at school, the topic was the terrorist attack. The speculation that we’d be pulled into a retaliatory war, or something similar happening here. We were scared. Scared that we’d be targeted too.
My biggest memory from this day was when I was in my accounting class. My teacher Mrs Wright was known as The Dragon as she was strict and didn’t tolerate any bull crap. Myself and 2 other accounting students would sit at the back of her year 12 business class as there weren’t enough of us for a dedicated accounting class.
We were all fairly restless and no one could concentrate on the lesson. Mrs Wright put up her hand and stopped the class.
“Alright everyone. Let’s talk about this. We have just witnessed a major world-changing event and I think we all need to talk about it and debrief. Let’s get it off our chest so we can focus on moving forward and getting on with our day.”
One by one we went around the room and discussed it – the shock, the fear, the disbelief. There was no shaming or hanging shit on each other – in a way it was like a group therapy session for shared trauma (I’ve never been in group therapy but that’s what I imagined it to be like). Mrs Wright taught us about terrorism, what it is, and what to expect when the world would react to it. She explained how terrorism is aimed to strike terror into ordinary peoples hearts so we are living in fear of the next attack. Interesting to note: for some time after, even I avoided large events like concerts or cricket in the city because I never knew if there would be another attack. And even now, I find myself making a mental note of emergency exits, you know, just in case something happens.
So even though I’m in Australia and am far removed from what happened that day, I still feel this event deep in my very core. When I watched some footage just before writing this blog, I felt that same fear and anxiety that I felt on that day. My heart goes out to those poor people who died in those attacks, and their family members, the first responders, and everyone who was impacted by this event in any way.
I can only hope that we never see such a horrific attack again.
I will never forget.