I remember September 11th 2001 as if it were yesterday. I was sitting in the office working as usual when one of my colleagues sent me a link over IM to a Swedish news web page. I clicked the link but didn’t get in since the web site failed to respond. I went over to his desk and asked what it was all about.
A plane has just crashed into the World Trade Center.
The year before, during the summer of 2000, I had been living and working in New York City, so I was immediately able to grasp the implications of this. Or so I thought. Amongst all the thoughts going through my head, one was of the plane that crashed into the Empire State Building, long ago, and how such a similar thing would affect one of the twin towers.
At this time we had no idea what kind of plane had hit the tower, or even if there had been a pilot or if it had been remotely controlled. I can’t remember how things went from there, but if my memory serves me right the second tower was also hit before we could even begin to feebly understand what was going on. We got into our conference room and turned on the TV and, in a state of shock, followed what happened.
We got to see that it was indeed a regular airline passenger plane that hit the second tower, and there also came in a report of a plane that had crashed into Pentagon. I remember just thinking:
What the fuck is going on?!
and also a feeling of being very very afraid, since nobody knew what the hell was going down. It felt like the end of the Western civilization: Internet didn’t work and no news channel could report what was really happening; all they could do was to broadcast horrible things happen in highly unlikely places.
One thing that annoyed the hell out of me was that, this exact day, the very small company I was working for had just landed their first big contract and the sales man had bought a bottle of champagne to celebrate it. And even after they saw on the TV what was happening, all they could feel was joy over the contract they had acquired. I think that, in the end, only three of them celebrated; the sales man and two of his friends. Kudos to the three owners, who had put their lives into this company, that they didn’t celebrate but actually understood the seriousness of the moment and how extremely unimportant the contract was in the big whole. I also remember some taunting phrase, when I refused to celebrate with them, saying I wouldn’t have cared about this at all if it had happened in the Arabic world. Let me tell you: I definitely don’t celebrate something when death has occurred, no matter in what part of the world it happened.
Upset over this and worried about my two friends I had in NYC, I left work and meet up with my closest friend, Henrik, to walk home to the part of Stockholm where I lived. Before I met him I remember calling my parents, who were on their way home from Europe and sitting in their car when I reached them. I explained what had happened and all I knew at that point, and they could hardly believe it was true.
I met up with Henrik and we started our journey to the south part of the Stockholm center. It took about one hour in our leisurely pace, although our lack of speed was most likely from our state of shock than being slow. For all the walk the rain was pouring down, and I remember thinking about it as if the sky was actually crying. Henrik and I parted ways and I went into the local convenient store to buy some groceries and was simultaneously talking to my brother Martin over the phone. He then introduced me to the theory about Usama Bin-laden, the first time (at least as I can recall) I ever heard that name mentioned; in the following months it would be a name that came up a countless number of times.
Later that night I got a hold of one of my friends in NYC, and the day after I got a hold of the other, so at least they were safe. The following days I, as the rest of the world, followed every news broadcast to try and learn more about what had really happened. I also became painfully aware how this would remove some of the innocence from peoples’ view of the world, how the diabolical plan of hijacking plans with passengers would affect airline traffic and peoples’ fear of flying and how any Muslim in the world would be looked down upon and be in danger just because of his/her faith.
While I, naturally, don’t support the attacks in any way, something have to be mentioned about certain persons’ view of them. Today I read that Michael Bloomberg expressed his opinion on the reasons USA had been attacked that day (quote loosely translated from a Swedish newspaper):
I believe the major reason for the September 11th attacks were that the US is a free country where everyone can practice the religion of their choice and express any opinions they have, and some people don’t like that.
How naive. And narrow minded. I think what’s important for the US government as well as the American population is to apply some self distance and self awareness to the whole situation. The attacks were not committed out of jealousy; go through the history to see what the US have also done to muslims and the Arabic world before the attack. Any terrorist attack is a terrible thing, but I also think that it’s vital to try and find the main motivator for why the terrorists go through with their actions in the first place.
The way it seems now, what happened September 11th changed the world for all future. It has bred a mistrust between different races and religions, and the world seems to me to be a less safer place than before. My only hope is that a peaceful way can be found for addressing the current situation, because the escalating level of violence that has been present since then has definitely not helped.
I will never forget September 11th.