Monday, September 11, 2006

5 years on

I'm not really into getting overly sentimental about anniversaries of key events, but I bought the Herald this morning and their front page (see left) reproduced the full front page of the Herald reporting on September 11, 2001. I was somewhat surprised how it brought all the memories flooding back.

I remember holding that same front page in my hands 5 years ago, of all places at an airport about to board a plane, terrified that these same people might also attack another Western outpost like Australia, but trying to reassure myself and my equally terrified wife that a domestic flight from Sydney to Perth didn't quite have the same symbolic potency as the World Trade Centre or the Pentagon.

I remember having earlier arrived at the airport in a taxi, my wife crying in the back seat at the whole shocking thought of it all. We were both exhausted - we'd stayed up late the night before to finish painting the kitchen cupboards in our newly purchased house, to unpack boxes from the recent move and pack our bags for holidays. We heard the story unfolding live on the small clock radio in the kitchen as we painted. First one plane, sounds like some freak accident; then another, sounds terrifyingly planned. Time to turn on the TV and see what was happening. A very late night, and an early rise for an early flight, acrylic paint fumes inhaled, and the emotional exhaustion of listening and watching the unfolding horror, not to mention the thought of boarding a plane ourselves, the very weapon of terror these people had used - no wonder we were exhausted.

I remember the feeling of guilt that I was so shocked at this one event, when people die horrendous deaths that go unreported all the time, and the media puts an earthquake killing tens of thousands on page 7 of the paper, while this event that killed comparatively few has occupied so much front page space and prime-time air time over the last 5 years. But I think the shock was that it brought the reality of death and terror to a place much closer to home. It wasn't my city, it wasn't my country. But it was so close to where I'm at. Office workers turning up to work in their sleek city skycrapers, thinking it's a day like any other. That's what I do every day.

I remember for weeks later staring out my office window at the high rises in my city thinking why couldn't it happen here. I'd stare across the road from where I worked at the high rise which contains the US embassy in our city, the building where I went to park one day a few weeks after 9/11 and had my car searched as I entered, such was the level of gripping fear.

I remember this feeling being brought even closer to home when little more than one year later, they attacked a favourite holiday destination of Australians. Bali brought home that they wanted our blood too. And then there was Madrid and London. Buses and trains, once again ordinary city workers on their way to work in cities not that different to mine. That's me. I'm Australian, I'm a city worker, I catch the train to my tower of glass and steel.

Did 9/11 change the world forever, as they keep telling us? I'm not sure that it did. We ought not be surprised by wars and rumours of wars but an event like this can bring that home to someone like me who lives in an age and a country where, rather abnormally in world history, life has been relatively untouched by such horrors. For me, that is the lingering memory and legacy 5 years on.


At 12:16 am, Blogger David said...

thanks for this post.
it's really good.

i've blogged about it.


At 11:06 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Andy - Why is this blog called ruminations? What does ruminations mean? Isn't it a silly name?

At 11:23 pm, Blogger Andy M said...

Hi Mike! Come out from behind your anonymity!

At 9:42 pm, Blogger Ruth said...

I remember being aware of the towers crashing being played repeatedly on tv - and so my two little boys had nothing to watch - and cried all morning!

I do often worry living so close to the city (and having parents that live even closer, and work there)...also I worry whenever I drive over the harbour bridge...but I've always had a gift for worrying.


Post a Comment

<< Home