11 September 2007

September 11

Many bloggers have posted small memorials to the fallen of this day, and have invited others to post their memories of the day. Though not an American, I, too, have strong memories.

I was just leaving for work when the news of the first plane came over the news. I said a quick prayer for the dead, but had no time for I had to be at work in a few minutes. (I should note I live within a five minute walk from where I work.) As I walked I wracked my brains, (and this seems truly stupid) trying to remember which buildings were the World Trade Center. When I got to work, one of my co workers had the radio on, and was getting feed from an American station. Just as I came in, the announcer said: "This just in: A second plane has crashed into the World trade Center."

The other announcer was stunned. "Another plane?" he said. "A second accident?"

I admit, to my shame, I broke out laughing at this. It seemed to me foolish of the man that he could not see that one may be an accident, but two was something else entirely. In retrospect, the man was most likely in shock, and he was recoiling from grasping the true horror of the news.

And the news got worse. Smoke rose from a field in Pennsylvania. The Pentagon was on fire. First one tower fell. Then the other. The estimates of the dead went from 10 to 20 thousand.
The president, it seemed, had run and hid. No one knew where he was, or if he was safe.

We were in shock as the news kept coming. It was all bad. People in the West mourned. People in the Middle East danced in the streets. Fireman had been flooding into the towers to rescue people when the towers collapsed. Planes had been grounded. The skyscrapers of Toronto were closed and evacuated. The rosary I was saying in my mind became a perpetual loop. My fellow workers and I went through the motions of our job, not paying attention to anything but the radio. But after a point, the radio could offer no more news, and just kept repeating what had already been said.

One of my strongest memories is of the weather that day. I work in a windowless basement. Down there we feel a tremendous disconnect from the outside. We know the weather only from the moods of the people who come and go, and not from anything we can see or feel. Down there, that day, I felt as though the sky must be grey and drizzling, a miserable wet day. What else could the weather be on such a day? But when I took my break for lunch and went outside, I was shocked to see a pure blue sky, not a cloud in it. It was a gorgeous day, or would have been, had my heart been in it. There was one other thing: where I work is on the landing path for Pearson airport, so planes constantly fly overhead. But only birds flew on this day. The sky seemed empty, dangerous, in its clear, stark beauty.

It wasn't until I went home that I saw the videos, mainly of the second plane crash. As I saw the plane hit I thought: 'So that's the World Trade Center.' Then I corrected myself: 'Or, was.' Reporters were interviewing the people with the video cameras who caught the second crash. Many of them seemed more concerned about their camera angle, and how the film had turned out, than what they had filmed. I went to pick up my daughter from my mother in law- there was only elder at the time- and kissed her and hugged her. The rosary kept circling in my mind.

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