Sunday, 11 September 2011

Memories of 9/11

I don't live in the US and never have. On 9/11 I was a student at a UK university, about as far removed from the action as a person can be. It says something about the sheer magnitude of those events that I can still remember every moment of that day.

I can remember being in town with a friend and seeing people crowding round Dixon's, watching the TVs in the window. At the time we assumed it was something comparatively minor and didn't bother to join them.

I can remember being on the bus and passing a noticeboard outside a newsagent that read "Pentagon in Flames", and thinking What? What the hell's happened? I got a text from my then boyfriend (now husband) just before we reached home, saying "Have you heard what's happened?" By the time his second text reached me, we were home and in front of the TV, watching footage of the Twin Towers engulfed in smoke and wondering what had happened to the world.

I can only imagine what it must have been like to see this as it was happening, to have been watching the news report of the first strike and seeing the second one hit live on camera. To have watched the interview that took place as the South Tower collapsed in the background. To have seen the people falling from the windows, knowing they would never escape in time.

Just two months later, while I was in a lecture, lightning struck the university hospital. The resulting bang and rumble sent everyone on campus into a panic. People screamed, ran, threw themselves flat to the floor. Was it another attack? Was it now our turn?

Here in the Uk we are fairly accustomed to terrorist attacks. I was in Manchester the day of the Father's Day bombing. In more recent years I fielded panic-stricken phone calls from students trapped in London on 7/7. People like to joke that our response to everything is to drink tea and get on with it. 9/11 was on a scale so much larger that it left a scar on our consciousness. Everyone knows where they were, everyone remembers how the world changed,.

I can't believe it's been ten years. It's still so clear. But I'll never forget.

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