11 September 2013
September 11, 2001 was a Tuesday. On that day, the most notorious and terrifying attack took place in New York.
It was, of course the event that still resonates like a boulder, thrown from a great height, into a deep lake by some ancient mythic god. But it was neither myth nor god that sent shock waves around the world in a matter of minutes. Today we speak of this in shorthand: 9/11.
A few days ago, a quiet evening at home was shattered by a film on television so frightening that sequences in it will stain the memory for all time. It was 102 Minutes That Changed America.
This film, made up I believe of hundreds upon hundreds of clips from people’s mobile phones, had an immediacy and intimacy quite different to a newsreel or official broadcast. Although the contents was amateur, the editing was seamless and very skilful. One felt that my husband, my daughter, my family, my friend, my city, my nation was being destroyed in front of my eyes.
And all one could do was watch, hands up to face, mouthing my God, oh my God. The agony of seeing one’s fellow men and women dying in such dire peril and drawn out pain was almost more than one could bear – even 12 years afterwards. At that time and in that place it must have been indescribable. Most of you who read this will have suffered alongside.
Of course there was heroism too. Ultra brave firemen and individuals who spared nothing, not even their lives to rescue those trapped in the flaming towers – which then, unbelievably, imploded.
What will remain on our inner eye for all time? An image of tiny figures, scrambling, clinging, jumping, from tiny windows from a building that seems to be melting, candle-wise. An image of a colossal rolling grey cloud of dust tumbling at speed after running figures; some of whom fall, or stagger, holding fabric to their faces; others run in the opposite direction with oxygen or stretchers; anxious, tear-stained onlookers, rooted to the spot, aghast at what they see.
And me? What appear to be two torches etched against a clear, dazzling blue sky; and what seems to be quantities of confetti, soundlessly drifting; twisting, turning, fluttering lazily to the streets beneath.