Monday, 12 September 2011

God Bless America

10 years ago today, I woke up, got ready for school and thought the day was going to be like any other day.  I had breakfast, went to school, learnt, had lunch and I came home.  I walked in the doorway of my house and unexpectedly found my parents both sitting in the front room watching the tv.  Normally my mum would be preparing dinner or doing some washing, and my dad would be cleaning up after being at work all day, so to find them both sitting down in the front room was a bit strange.  I walked in and asked them what they were watching - I had no idea that the answer to that question was to change my life, as well as change the entire world forever.  I had no idea that I was about to walk into my house and watch one of the most important and terrifying pieces of history unfold in front of my eyes.

10 years ago today the United States of America came under attack from the terrorists organisation Al-Qaeda.  New York City was attacked by 2 domestic aeroplanes being hijacked and flown into each tower of the World Trade Centre, the epicentre of financial business in the United States.  A third plane was hijacked and flown into the Pentagon in Washington D.C, and another plane was hijacked - the last plane wasn't flown into a building, or used to attack a large group of people but it didn't matter.  That was the intention, but the courageous people on board managed to overpower the hijackers and the plane crashed into a field near The Pentagon, killing everyone on board.  

Everyone knows where they were when they heard about 9/11, and I know the images projected onto our tv screens that day will stay in my memory for as long as I live.  I remember I arrived home just after the first plane had hit.  No one knew what was going on, there were reports on all news channels that there had been an awful plane crash in New York and that it was serious, but there were no images of the first plane.  We continued to watch the video of the aftermath of the first plane crash and wondered what had happened.  A few minutes later we watched with horror when another plane heading directly for the second untouched tower ploughed into it - once that happened you knew it was serious.  Just when we thoughts things couldn't get any worse, reports of the Pentagon being hit and another domestic flight being hijacked came in.  Then, when the first tower collapsed, closely followed by the second, it became apparant that there was a hell on earth, and on this particular day, it was in New York City.  The images that followed were horrific.  It was unfathomable how anyone would make it out of these buildings alive, not to mention the sheer number of people that must have died instantly when the planes impacted with the towers.

One of the worst images that stuck in my mind from that day was watching the people that jumped out of the towers.  I cannot even imagine what sort of state they must have been in, how DESPERATE they must have felt, to know that their only option was to jump to their certain death from the top of one of the tallest towers in the world.  It must have taken all of their courage and all of their willpower to take that leap and know that within seconds you would die.  That is the single most gut wrenching image I could have seen that day, and knowing that someone else, a single PERSON had caused all of those people to feel that lost, helpless and desperate is something I will never understand.

Of course the aftermath of 9/11 is equally as horrific.  The War on Terror began and for all of the people that had already suffered enough, knowing that more people they are connected with were going out to fight in this war and potentially lose their lives can't have made them feel any better.  I'm not writing this post to try and determine whether the war on terror was right, as I think it's impossible to call.  Obviously fighting violence with violence isn't the most productive way of solving problems, but something had to be done.  What touches me even more is that the people that give their lives for their country every day back this cause 100%.  There are servicemen and women out there who probably knew someone who died that day, and for them this is revenge - for the people that aren't directly affected, this is about trying to make this world a better place.  A place where humans don't want to hurt each other, they don't want to smash down buildings and kill everyone inside while their families watch helplessly on tv.  As the age old saying goes, why can't we all just get along?

I watched the coverage of the 10th anniversary memorial live on Sky News yesterday, and it bought all the old feelings back.  Some of the victims’ families were so strong, and you could tell for others that although their lives had continued, a part of them had stayed with whoever it was they knew that were trapped in the towers that day.  The memorial consisted of the families of the casualties reading out a few names of the deceased, finishing with the person they were there to pay tribute to.  All 2971 names were read out, and their names are also inscribed on the side of the beautiful memorial.  There are wives mourning husbands, children mourning parents, parents mourning brothers and sisters - people from all nationalities, all different walks of life and all ages were in this together.

Some of the stories that came out of this event were nothing short of amazing.  Stories of normal people, general office workers putting their lives on the line by trying to help others get out before themselves, even though they knew it would more and likely lead to their death.  People leaving the buildings and going back in to get others.  The courage shown by the occupants of those towers and the Pentagon is nothing short of truly remarkable.  The firefighters, policemen/women and the emergency services based in NY on that day are enough of a reason to have faith restored in humanity.  Hundreds of people that died are these people, the emergency services - They were called to the scene after this had happened, people that weren't supposed to be there.  They went into this hell, knowing more so than any other day they had been doing their job that the odds were stacked against them so massively.  I wouldn't have blamed any of them for being reluctant, but I bet none of them were.  It's times like this when you see a whole community pull together, a whole STATE and realise that compassion and humanity is alive and well, and it's just a different race, a different understanding of things that make events like this unfold on that horrible windy September day.

9/11 struck a chord with me.  I'm not sure if it's because I, like so many other millions of people all over the world, watched and cried and sat there, well aware of the fact this was happening and there was nothing we could do about it.  It really resonated with me the bad things that can happen in this world, and the determination of other people that try to make good come of it.  I remember at the time this happened I was trying to think of an idea for my Media project.  I had paired up with a friend and we decided to use footage from news channels, filmed footage recruiting some friends and signs and posters from the shrine outside the American Embassy in London to create a music video to the song True Colours by Cindi Lauper.  We picked this song because although this occasion was desperately sad (there really is no other way to describe it) the true colours of New York and America in general were shown in the aftermath of this.  

The world is now a scary place.  Everyone's lives changed that day and things will never go back to how they were.  Before this happened I didn't ever really hear the world 'terrorist' - I know the issues with the IRA have been going on for years, but for me it's not on the same scale as this, I was pretty sheltered from it.  There would be no sheltering anyone from what happened in American.  Each country now has a 'terror alert', scaled for how likely they think an attack is.  Everyone has seen the difference in Airport security, which is next to unbreakable, ESPECIALLY when entering America.  I used to work in Canary Wharf and after the London Bombings the security there was stepped up considerably.  I think as devastating as watching 9/11 was, it did feel a bit like a tv show.  We were so removed from the situation, and that's part of what made it so painful to see.  When the London Bombings happened it bought it home to a lot of English residents that the threat of terror is alive and very real and the world is just a more dangerous place because of it.

Everyone that was affected from this massive terror attack deserves some sort of respect.  Some people are prepared to lose their lives doing their jobs, soldiers, firefighters, people in the police force.  It doesn't make it any less tragic, but it makes it a tiny bit more easier to deal with, to know on some level they might have been slightly prepared.  The people in those towers, in the Pentagon and on those planes that day weren't expecting to lose their lives.  They were just going to work to earn some money, to look after themselves or their families.    

I have to wrap this up a bit, as otherwise I could seriously go on all day and write a book about it.  The one thing I have taken from this tragedy ultimately means that Al-Qaeda have failed in what it was they set out to do.  They wanted to scare people, they wanted to upset people and they tried to break a whole country.  America might have been broken, but it was temporarily.  From the minute the clean up started, they made it their mission to stand tall in the face of terrorism and show them they weren't going to win.  The same thing happened in London after the bombings.  The London Underground is the most used mode of public transport during the week day.  Thousands and thousands of people use the tube to get to work.  After this happened yeah we were scared, but we cleaned up, mourned the innocent victims and sat back on that tube and got ourselves to work.  No one was going to stop us from doing what we do, and nobody stopped the people of New York.  They have emerged from this with a great sense of dignity, strength and pride for their country, and they have my utmost respect.  

To every innocent person that lost their lives in the 9/11 terror attacks, may your soul rest in peace.
To every innocent person that has lost their lives as a result of the war on terror, thank you for trying to make the world a better place, RIP.
To every innocent person involved in the war on terror, we thank you and we wish you all the luck in the world.  Come home safe.

Rest in Peace.  You will never be forgotten.

The beautiful light memorial, standing in place of where the 2 original
Twin Towers stood, 10 years and 2 days previously

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