Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11…. ten years on

Everyone can remember that day ten years ago…. For me, I was in my office and Jan, one of our architectural staff, had picked up some incredible footage on the internet of a plane hitting one of the twin towers in New York. We all watched in total disbelief – each of us speculating as to what must have happened…. a technical malfunction? pilot error?.... nothing seemed to make sense. Then the second plane hit the other tower and, after various “OMG” exclamations etc, we all went VERY quiet. It seemed clear that this was some sort of deliberate, planned attack. Like many people, I suspect, we didn’t get any work done in the office for the rest of the afternoon…. we kept on checking updates via the internet. I remember getting home and simply staring at the television for hours on end; eventually going to bed but continuing to listen to updates via the World Service.
Completely sickening.
Just over three weeks later, Ken, Steve and I were in New York – as part of our pre-arranged (amazing) golf tour of New York State (Steve+I were in the air as US/UK air strikes took place in Afghanistan). Ken, who had arrived in NYC on business a couple of days earlier, had been brought up in New York; as a kid, he’d watched the twin towers being built. We all knew that our relatively limited time in the NYC would be very harrowing, particularly for Ken. Understandably, we weren’t allowed to get close to the twin towers site (thank goodness… and I only have a few non-digital photos, so I can’t show post them here), but these are some of my key memories of that time:
a) There were stars+stripes EVERYWHERE.
b) Security was massive!
c) Groups of people would be standing and applauding every truck (demolition/construction/fire) that entered the twin tower “zone”.
d) When people knew that Steve+I were British, they were effusive in their praise for Tony Blair (who they clearly felt would make a much better US president than Bush) – for what they saw as his powerful and appropriate words in response to the attack.
e) We were able to eat in one of the best restaurants in Greenwich Village (normally we would have had to have booked weeks in advance) and were welcomed with open arms – by and large, it seemed that people were afraid to venture out of their homes.
f) We took a boat ride on the Hudson river and simply stared at the “void” in the skyline that WAS the World Trade Centre and the ongoing stream of smoke and steam that continued to rise from the site.
g) Ken gave a memorable sermon at St Mary’s church, Thame within a matter of days of 9/11 (I’ve tried to track down a link to a tape but, thus far, without success – Ken: any suggestions?).
I returned to New York five years ago with Ken (plus Moira, Debby, Gail and Ian) and, thanks to his generosity, we stayed in a beautiful hotel in downtown Manhattan (as you do!) - only some 200m or so from the World Trade Centre site itself. I still found it very difficult to take in the full extent of what had happened on 9/11, but going to St Paul’s Chapel (located immediately alongside the site and which, amazingly, survived intact) brought it all into focus. This
link gives some idea of what went on there.
My own (badly) patched-together photograph of the World Trade Centre site shown here (taken in 2006) sadly fails to convey the extent of the devastation that took place in September 2001 but, for me, it provides a poignant reminder of that fateful day.
I just hope and pray that there aren’t any major incidents to mark today’s tenth anniversary.

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