As I type this I am watching Flight 93. It is the true story of what happened to United Airlines flight 93 that landed in Pennsylvania - killing 40 innocent people but saving an indeterminable number of others. You know the one. "Let's roll!" That one.
I watched September 11 happen live. Four days previously I had turned 16. I was outside feeding my cat when I heard Dad yell out "Samantha....? Come here..." It was a tone of voice I've not heard since. I ran straight inside. The fear in his voice hit me like a bucket of iced water and I could not fathom what news he was going to bring me. My brother had just joined the Air Force and I admit my first thought was that he had been killed - that was the tone of voice he used.
He was staring at the TV. On it was two tall buildings with smoke billowing from one of them. I stared at the TV trying to connect what I was seeing with the fear in Dad's voice. I stammered, "Is this a movie...?" Dad replied "That's what I thought, but look. It says it's live. I just flicked channels and saw this..." We watched live as the plume poured out and small, firey pieces of debris fluttered to the ground. We listened as the news reader speculated that it was possibly a gas explosion. He was as clueless as we were. What happened next will haunt me for as long as I live.
Suddenly the camera pulled back to include more cityscape and a plane entered the screen.
"Dad, where is that plane going? ... Dad? Dad! Where is that plane going? DAD!!!"
It makes my heart race and a knot form in my stomach to think about it. It seemed to look less like a plane hitting a building and more like a building swallowing a plane. It just... disappeared. It was obliterated. I knew nobody had survived.
Suddenly Dad and I connected the initial images of the burning building with the fate of its twin that we had just witnessed. This wasn't an accident. None of it was an accident. We watched as the fired burned and the smoke continued to billow. We listened intently for any skerrick of information that could help to make sense of the information we were hearing. That information never came. Never.
Cameras beamed images of people above the points of impact waving for help. They waved jackets and their arms. They would have been screaming for help, but we couldn't hear. And we couldn't do anything to help. We saw people falling from the buildings. No. Falling is not the right word. Jumping. They were jumping to their deaths. Plummeting to the ground was preferable to spending another second that close to the intolerable heat of the burning jet fuel. As is my way, I have since repressed this. Dad tells me I saw it. I don't remember. This was where my mind drew the line and ceased to cope.
We heard of a possible explosion or plane crash at the Pentagon. Details were fuzzy. It seemed to be the theme of the night. Fuzzy details. Speculation. Fear.
Fireman, policeman and ambulance crew arrived. With unwavering bravery they raced into the burning buildings to do what they could. My heart swelled with hope that there would be no more deaths. Those who were still alive would be saved.
Then the building swayed.
And everything above the impact point collapsed.
The weight was too much for the rest of the structure to bear and the whole building fell.
It had been nearly an hour since the first impact.
Dad and I sat in shock. I cried. I don't remember what we talked about - what aspects of the events we were witnessing warranted discussion. But as the dust settled from the first tower collapse I suddenly said to Dad, "Could you imagine what it would feel like for the people still in the tower that's standing? They must be wondering if their tower will fall..." I will never forgive myself for saying this because literally as I finished my question, the second tower swayed, swooped and collapsed upon itself. Just as the first tower did. The horror I felt was indescribable.
Word had begun to come through of a plane crash in Pennsylvania - but in an empty field. It seemed like a coincidence rather than part of the attacks. More fuzzy details. More speculation. More fear.
Dad insisted I go to bed. His compromise was to move the TV from the kitchen into my bedroom so I could watch until I fell asleep. I took notes in a notebook of everything I was hearing. I had to do something. I wrote in my diary.
What a horrible tragedy! The Trade Centre Towers in New York were hit by a Boeing 767 @ 10:50pm EST / 8:50am NYT, then another about 18 mins later. The Pentagon was hit. Then the 2nd hit tower collapsed followed by the 1st tower. A Pennsylvania plane was crashed. All were hijacked <- terroroists. I was saying, after 1st collapse "How horrible 4 ppl in 1st tower." Then it fell. I'm shaking and crying.
I fell asleep just before dawn. I don't remember why I went to school. Considering Dad let me have time off for the World Cup, I don't imagine I would have had trouble getting that day off school. It was a cold, wet, drizzle day. I wrote in my diary the next night too.
Eerie weather 4 an eerie mood. As if Mother Nature was holding a minute's silence. (Grade 11 did) Oh, it's terrible! I just wanna curl up and die. I don't wanna grow up just to fit into this cruel, sick, evil world. 2 do my help, I saved a cat today.
Two days later, television was still showing September 11 news broadcasts instead of normal programming. I couldn't wait to get home to see more and learn more. I needed some sense to be made from this. I still think about the events of September 11. Not just at anniversaries of the tragedy or at times like now - I am still watching the movie right now and have cried a few times so far. Watching September 11 live at the tender age of 16 affected me more than watching the news recaps ever could. And I hope I never witness anything that could affect me as much as long as I live.
Miss SAMawdsley xx
- Where were you when September 11 happened?
- Did you watch it live or did you find out about it when you woke up on the Wednesday morning?
- How has September 11 affected you?
Surrounded by our friends of every faith, we know this is not a clash of civilizations. It's a conflict between murderers and humanity. This is not a question of retaliation or revenge. It's a matter of justice leading to peace. The only acceptable result is the complete and total eradication of terrorism.
New Yorkers are strong and they are resilient.
We are unified and we will not yield to terror.
We do not let fear make our decisions for us.
We choose to live in freedom.