I make no excuses for writing about 9/11 as so many others have today. For those of us that remember it was the day the world changed. For those that were too young, it is what shaped the world as you know it.
I was at work in a restoration project in Brighton. I only discovered what was going on when I phoned someone to arrange a meeting. They were really odd in the way they spoke to me and at some point they must have realised I didn’t know what had happened and they said, have you not seen the news? and told me about the first plane. At that, work ended for the day as our small team huddled round the computers to watch the awful pictures. I remember the shock but I didn’t realise at that stage the significance of what was happening. I don’t think anyone did right then.
I remember my boss desperately trying to contact his New York colleagues (based in the near vicinity of the World Trade Centre) about a proposed grant we had been awarded. I also remember thinking how insensitive and foolish he was being.
The pictures were truly awful, especially as it became apparent that hundreds of people were trapped above the fires. Even then though I thought they would be able to rescue them, that they would send in some helicopters or something. Because the truth was too awful to comprehend. Then of course came the pictures of people jumping to their death. The realisation that this was a choice, was mind numbing. That for people, ordinary people, office workers, to be choosing to jump from a building that tall, was incomprehensible. I can’t even imagine what that must have been like, but a programme a few years after the event, showed interviews with fire fighters who recall hearing the constant thud on the ground and not realising until they were outside that it was not explosion or the buildings falling until they went outside and saw the horrible truth.
I can’t begin to imagine the horror of the day for those that actually experienced it first hand, or that were injured, that had friends, colleagues, family die there. But I know that it touched everyone. A new world emotion was formed of ‘fear’. When people talk of evil moving in this world I think of that day. Not of the perpetraitors but of how the world changed because of this single event. How people had no choice but to live in fear. My husband was spending some time working in London around then and I hated it. I hated saying goodbye in the morning, knowing the the city was on full alert. I hated thinking that he could be at risk of further attacks. For years I would not go to the city unless I had to, and as for taking the kids for days out there… well, no. Thankfully that has passed, even in the wake of other terrorist atrocities like the 7th July bombings.
However amidst all of that we need to forgive and we need to live in love. I heard an interview this morning on Radio 2 with the wife of a pilot from one of the planes that flew into the towers. Her story is amazing. She and her husband were/are committed Christians and although she acknowledges the pain and doubt and anger she felt with God, she also talked of how He was with her and her family always, and how as a result her relationship with Him grew in amazing ways. She is truly inspirational. They also had the Archbishop of Canterbury on, who I thought spoke very well too. I didn’t know that he was actually in NY at the time, just a few blocks from the World Trade Centre. The presenter said to him, ‘what can we say to people who say where was God then? why did God allow it to happen’ and he said, (from memory so don’t quote me) that God was in the firefighters, and police and medical workers dealing with the aftermath, that He was in those offering help to the injured, to the bereaved, that He was in those offering kind words to people, those comforting people. And I thought yes, He was. Whether God knew or not what was going to happen, whether He could have stopped it or not, whether we can ever understand why it all happened, we can know that He was there. That he was weeping over the awful tragedy too, that He was with all those who needed Him, that He was watching in horror with us.
Today I pray for all those that still mourn and that are still affected by the horror and I continue to pray that we will all live in love and not in hate.