10-09-03

So as not to forget

Written in response to Michele Catalano's "Voices" project, over at A Small Victory, asking people to write down their memories of 9/11, so as not to forget.

Dedicated to the future.

Belgium, September 1st 2003

We didn't expect it to happen ... nobody did. Draped in a warm cocoon of luxury we all thought we were safe. Sure, "We wouldn't forget" ..., we saw the -- by now sloganesk -- writings in movies, plays and books a hundred times and more: "Never again" ... . But we still did forget.

In a timespan of half a century the idea of war was pushed to the backs of our minds. Things looked quite good anyway: we all had cars to take us through a cold winter morning. We had television to entertain us and make us forget the sorrow of a slightly more difficult day at work. And hey, the Wall came down, one less problem to deal with, why worry? The evils of fascism and communism were defeated and the Age of Aquarius was coming, mankind developed and it was time to think about the future, in a not-too-modest positive way if possible.

People who work in shifts tend to feel a bit strange now and then. It's strange to come home at noon and having the feeling it's night already. But you try to adapt, you eat something while listening to the radio, one ear hearing the radio, the other is there to hear yourself thinking about what you are going to do with the remaining part of the day.

Vaguely I overheard that something had happened in New York, a building on fire ... special news report ... probably an accident ... no surprise in that ... all those skyscrapers ... busy airtraffic ... damn ... .
Then another news report, and another, ... quite normal actually ... the "Media Contemplating the Big Apple ... ". A few minutes pass, I was already on a slightly higher state of alert than I was when I came home. When I was young I used every second of my spare time to read about space and everything that flew beneath it. I never liked it when one came down.

The music stopped. Not in the kind way. Not in the way music is fading out when radiopeople want to announce a traffic jam, or even put a few giggles in between. It was done the hard way, with the push of a thumb instead of the gentle strike of the index finger, unorganized. You could hear the unrest even in the speaker's voice.
Connections were broken, re-established again, texts were spoken with a lot of pauses in between. My heartrate had already gone up quite considerably by that time.

"A second airpl ..." was all I could stumble. It was all that I needed. Things went fast from then on. Something had announced a very long day, well into a short night, into a new era.

I felt myself rising from my chair, dropping everything at hand, knife and fork falling loudly on my plate. Things were still falling when I was watching CNN, the only American channel Belgian cable companies were providing at that time.

Staying at my parents' house, there was a small couch on four wheels in front of the TV, about 3 meters away from it. That's where I sat for the next two, three, four hours ... for the rest of the day, hands between legs.
All those questions running through one's head: "Who did this? Why? How many people are in there?" Then a third plane, a fourth, still later a fifth. "How many were there? How did they do this?" At the time, I didn't yet realise which effect this was going to have on everyone's lives. I think it was only later, at the same time that a helicopter pilot could be heard yelling "Holy shit!", that anger and bitterness started coming in. Before that, it was only bewilderment.

Throughout the whole day and many days more from then on, I tried to imagine what it was like for the people inside. A young man above the hole where the first plane hit, calling on the phone with his grandmother, comes to mind, asking her what that "rumbling sound was he could hear in the background" ... .
Tower Two was gone ... I felt frozen.

If this one came down, the other one is going too, I remember thinking, and the people inside Tower One must realize it. Later investigations showed that at least some of them did. They broke the windows to get some air, some cameras captured them waving their shirts or whatever they could find, crying for help, in vain.
Some jumped or fell, nobody can ever forget those images. Nor the sounds of people crashing into glass, which I later saw, frightened even the Firefighters. Some researchers brought forward that it may very well have been that people didn't choose to jump, but instead searched on hands and knees, keeping low to escape the smoke and the heat, trying to find a way out, not realizing they were going towards an open window.

It was such a long day. I remember feeling exhausted when Building 7 came down, as I was preparing to go to bed. "How many more?"

When you look back at things, you realise how much our world has changed. A new -- formerly ánd now still -- underestimated threat has come into our world. Letting those two years run through my mind, I see the days, weeks and months afterwards, reading all the articles, watching all the news, hearing a lady captured under a firefighting-truck scream out for help through a radio she had found.

I lost friends because of differences on how to fight this struggle.

18:16 Gepost door Flint | Permalink | Commentaren (0) |  Facebook |

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