Monday, September 12, 2011

Two final looks at 9/11

I had planned on ending this series of looks back at 9/11 on the 10th anniversary of the attacks with my own piece 10 Years which ran yesterday. But two posts on other blogs caught my eye and I felt needed to be presented with this series. So with that in mind, please allow me to introduce you to ...

... Jo, whom I have known for about a half dozen years now. She is, in her own words, a full time mum of 2 beautiful girls, wife of one (who'd want more than one?) and she also works in full time paid employment. What caught my eye about her blog post that made me feel the necessity to ask permission to link to it here is her final paragraph. (Note my comment to her post on her blog.) Here is her entry, September 11 - Ten Years On.

The second post is from Peter Bower. Peter is a writer and a photographer and was 17 years old when NYC was attacked. His account of that evening (for him) is told in his blog post, 9/12: An Australian’s Version of September 11.

I hope you have enjoyed this series of views from outside of the US, and hopefully it has brought us all closer together in remembering this tragic event.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

10 Years

Me (with camera) at the WTC in 1977

10 years ...

Whenever I returned to college from a visit home I would pass by the construction site where the World Trade Center was being built. As a child I thought that the Empire State Building would always be the tallest building in the world, but here they were building two (!) which would be taller. When complete, the twin towers of the World Trade Center would replace King Kong's favorite New York City skyscraper as the tallest in the world - at least for a while.

10 years ...

In 1973 the World Trade Center opened. It didn't have the charm of the building it replaced as tallest, but there it was, right at the tip of Manhattan island. You could see it from the Staten Island ferry as you approached ... you could see it as you crossed over the Verrazano Bridge. It was built on land that had not existed when New Amsterdam was settled, though it towered over the space where the original Dutch settlement existed. It transformed the famous New York City skyline.

10 years ...

As a Scoutmaster and as a Cubmaster, I brought the boys in my unit to the 110th floor observation deck. As a New Yorker, I had not been to the top of the Empire State Building (yet), but hardly anyone went there anymore, as these new buildings were the highest you could now get in New York City. On a number of occasions, my wife and I brought our son and daughter up to the observation deck. In 1976 I took a picture of the Statue of Liberty from here which I entered into a US Bicentennial photo contest, and won a prize.

10 years ...

For many years I worked in Secaucus, New Jersey and lived in Brooklyn. My drive to work took me through the Battery Tunnel and past the World Trade Center. Each morning I passed by, seeing the busy area and watching folks going to work in the towers.

10 years ...

Ten years ago today, I was home asleep, not feeling well enough to go to work. My phone rang. It was my daughter wanting to know if the world was coming to an end. I retell the story every year on September 11 - you can read about it for yourself as well - The Day That Changed Everything. Life in NYC changed, life in the US changed, and life all around the world changed. We had always thought that we were safe here in the US, no one would dare attempt this sort of thing here. How quickly, and tragically, we found that we were wrong. We lost so much more than buildings that day. We lost lives, we lost security and we lost our innocence. No longer could we go about our daily lives without a reminder of what had changed. Everyone here in NYC lost someone they knew, or knew someone who had. A high school classmate and friend that I had just recently sat with to plan our class's 30 year reunion, Alan Feinberg, was a fireman and first responder who entered a dying building to help others ... and never came out. You may not have known the people in the World Trade Center, The Pentagon or on the hijacked aircraft, but you grieved for them ... and for the life of the pre-9/11 days.

One of the 4 hijacked aircraft left Newark International Airport - just 15 minutes from my house. It crashed landed in Shanksville, PA after passengers stormed the flight deck in an attempt to take back the airplane from the terrorists.

10 years ...

The day after the attack I found myself in the emergency room at Staten Island University Hospital. In the bed next to me was the wife of a fireman who was working at ground zero. He had come home for a break, and she had a reaction to the dust and debris he came home covered with.

10 years ...

As with the bombing of Pearl Harbor a generation before, we were stirred out of our complacency and into war. Security was increased everywhere, not just at the airports. We had learned to constantly look back over our shoulders.

10 years ...

In April, 2010 a friend was visiting from Australia and I was taking her around my city. She wanted to visit ground zero. I hadn't been able to bring myself to be in the area since the day of the attack. This was my first time back through that area. We looked down onto the footprint of the World Trade Center as the area was being prepared for construction of The Freedom Tower and the 911 Memorial.

10 years ...

Today, the empty space on our skyline where the World Trade Center stood, is no longer empty. The Freedom Tower is at half of its final height. When completed, the Empire State Building will once again relinquish its title of tallest in NYC. We are New Yorkers ... we are Americans ... you may deal us a blow, but we come back and we come back stronger than ever.

Weeks after the attack we visited our daughter in Florida, and saw The Voices of Liberty perform at the American Adventure in EPCOT in Walt Disney World. This clip was a part of that performance that I share each 9/11. (I hope and look forward to you sharing your thoughts on 9/11 below.)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

An Aussie in California (A 9/11 Guest Blog)

If you ask Michelle, she will tell you she is Australian. The US, however, has the privilege of calling her one of our own as well. Having lived many years here, she also claims US citizenship. Her story comes from a unique perspective. My conversations with Michelle always make me think, and I urge you to check out her blog, 4 kids, a dog and a blog.


On the morning of September 11, 2001 I was woken by a phone call from a good friend in San Francisco. “Wake up” she said, “Turn on the television”.

I put it on and at this point the speculation was that it was a terror attack from Palestinian forces. I kept watching. Then my two-year-old woke up and all he wanted to do was go into the front yard and dig in the dirt.

I received many worried phone calls from home on that day.  My family had witnessed the attacks live on their television screens while I was still sleeping and even though they knew that we were in California, on the other side of the country, they couldn’t help but be concerned.

We lived near a US air base and in the months that followed every time those planes flew low over our backyard I jumped. I kept on with life as normal but every outing to a large public place was marred by a slight sense of unease. Thankfully, my son was too young to have any real awareness of what was going on.

I remember for a period of time after 9/11 writers talking of feeling frozen, abandoning work that no longer seemed important in the face of this horrible new reality. I am glad that in the intervening years those same writers did find their voices again and have given us works of fiction that explore the events of 9/11 from many different perspectives. But at the ten year mark I still have that sense of not quite knowing what to say, or of perhaps not having a right to say anything much at all.

Following 9/11 I spent a lot of time just reading, from the obituaries that the New York Times ran for months on end honouring each individual who had died in the attacks to the Opinion pieces that often left me struggling, with far more questions than answers.

My instinct at the ten-year mark is to do the same again, reading and listening to the stories of those whose lives were so radically altered by the terrible events of that day. And I will also be spending time talking about the event and it’s aftermath with my now 12-year-old son who is no longer so interested in playing in the dirt.

(This is the sixth in the series. I hope you take the time to read those that came before and the ones to follow.)

September 11 2001 - Lost Innocence (A 9/11 Guest Blog)

Tania is a good friend who lives in Australia. Be sure to take some time and visit her blog, Crooked_Fairytale.


I doubt there are many who don't remember where they were on September 11 2001.

For me it was  the evening and I was on the computer scanning the internet and reading emails.  Suddenly a haunting image appeared on my screen - it was one of the twin towers in smoke.  A plane had just crashed into it.  I couldn't comprehend what I was seeing, how could a plane crash into a 110 storey building in the middle of the day?  it just seemed surreal.  Did the pilot have a heart attack? How did no one spot this earlier?

It seemed only moments later that a second plane crashed into the second tower.  It was like a scene from a movie and in fact my step-brother was in a bar in the UK at the time and he and his mates watched thinking it was a new Die Hard Film.

I can't remember how long I sat there, probably only minutes when I realised that it wasn't a movie it was real , something unimaginable had happened. Somehow I made it to the lounge and the tv.  Carnage was everywhere, smoke, fire, falling debris. Oh my God we are at war I thought.

I didn't sleep, I don't think anyone around the world slept that day, I couldn't look away from my television.  The images I saw were shocking and burned into my retinas, I won't forget them, visions of people jumping and falling from heights that they would never survive from.  What made them do it?  Was it that bad that willingly jumping was better than waiting hoping for rescue?

Since then I have watched every piece of footage that was available, it became like an obsession.  I don't know why, I couldn't stop, I cried, I still cry.  I had so many questions.  I tried to live those last moments working out if there was anyway more people could have survived.  Questions that have been asked by thousands even millions, questions that will never have answers.

I don't believe in war, I hate violence but I do understand the pain, the need to lash out, that moment of insanity when you want to lash out and hurt those who hurt you, these things I understand and I think it is necessary to feel those emotions before you can move on.  

Many people died that day, people are still dying from subsequent issues from that day, for those families involved, the heartache still goes on but like all of us they move forward trying to find their way in the world.

The gift of life is powerful and keeps going regardless, and no matter what adversity we face as human beings, no matter how much horror that gift keeps us going, we rise above the ashes stronger, more respectful of one another, more willing to stretch out a hand to help.  

My prayer is that we don't need any more disasters for us to remember why we are here and who we were born to be.

(This is the fifth in a series. Be sure to read all of the entries before and those to follow.)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Australians Remember (A 9/11 Guest Blog)

Denyse Whelan is Australian, and you can read her blog at Denyse Whelan Blogger. Educator. Consultant. You can also follow her on Twitter: @denwise1


9/11. 10 Years Ago.

My husband and I send all warm wishes, and our sincere condolences to our U.S. families and friends.

This anniversary is like no-other.

How can it be 10 years ago? It is.

We remember this:
  • It was in the wee hours of our morning, that our son woke us to tell what he had just witnessed via the TV screen in our front room.
  • He was awake to see "it" - the tragedy and terror- unfold via live TV because he had returned from his evening shift at work.
  • We all felt sick. We felt disbelief. We could not stop watching as our screens were filled with sights, and sounds, never seen beyond a Hollywood effects movie.
Later that day:
  • I went to work. As a school principal.
  • The school's location, around 30 minutes west from our place, housed Sydney's Royal Air Force Base.
  • Many students who attended the school had parents, and relatives who worked there.
  • From the time I arrived, I was dealing with students who worried about Mum's or Dad's job, and what would happen if they same "thing" i.e. terrorism struck here too.
  • I was also leading a group of teachers who were, like me, affected by the horror. The sheer size and magnitude not understood.
  • The air force base went into Lockdown mode. For the first time anyone could remember.
What about now, 10 years on?
  • It is said that the world changed that day. I agree.
  • Air travel became a new security measures, and added restrictions, as I found when I visited the U.S. in 2006.
  • "It's because of 9/11" was the catch cry.
  • We never forget. The sights. The stories.
  • In fact this week, we have re-visited much of the day the world change via our TV screens.
The future:
  • None of us could predict "that day" nor I guess the ones ahead.
  • However, I am coming to U.S., specifically to New York City, in July 2012.
  • My first, and most important part of my stay, will be to visit, and pay my respects to the people, whose lives were lost, irreparably changed, on 9/11/01.

Denyse Whelan. Blogger. Educator. Consultant.   Twitter: @denwise1

The attack on the Western World (A 9/11 Guest Blog)

Heather is from Australia and has seen her share of destruction and tragedy. She has done something to help. Bookkeeper by day, blogger by night, accidental creator of The Marysville Cookbook.

This is the third post of this series - please be sure to read them all.

9/11, Sept 11 2001 – The attack on the Western World

I remember where I was, just like so many – I was watching Star Trek, it was some time between 23.00hrs-01.00hrs (AU EST). The transmission was cut to cross live to a building, with a plane approaching, you could see in the background, one building on fire and the plane approaching and just flying into the second building.

It didn’t seem real – how could the cameras be there as it is happened? How could people be describing what is going on? Why was the second building collapsing?

Just too much to comprehend, I woke my husband, he said I was mistaken, it’s too late, I must be dreaming I must have got it wrong.

I didn’t get it wrong. I didn’t sleep that night – I couldn’t sleep that night, the same as many hundreds of other people couldn’t sleep that night here in Australia. The number of people walking through a nightmare in the USA, and other parts of the world, far too numerous to even consider the numbers.

The images of people jumping from a leap that was not survivable, the images of the dust and smoke and ash, of paper being blown about like confetti. The images of people trying to flee one of the most built-up areas in the USA. The images of people emerging from the dust of the building collapse. Everyone was the same, the same shocked look, the same skin colour, the same look of disbelief.

In my minds eye I could see people on the phones in these buildings, saying their goodbyes, saying I love you.

I couldn’t think it possible that one human being or even two or more human beings were capable of destroying something so precious as another human life.

I just couldn’t understand. Many people before me have put their condolences in far better terms that I ever could and for that I say thank-you

I may live in Australia, I may not know anyone who perished in these attacks on the western world, but I felt the horror just as the next person did, just as people did in America.

9/11 wasn’t just an attack on America; it was an attack on the civilised world.

America went to war for world-wide peace, Australia and many other countries also went to war for the same cause.

I don’t like war, nor does my neighbour nor America, but I believe it was a necessary evil. An evil to stop further attacks on you, on me, on my neighbour, on your neighbour, on your family overseas, or on other countries. America and her supporters needed to show a united front on an event that could very well have lead into WWIII.

May the world never forget 9/11 and may peace reign world-wide forever.

God bless.


Please also read the other posts on this topic before and after this one.

Feeling so sorry for the country that I love like a second home (A 9/11 Guest Blog)

Patrick Mitchell is a friend of mine from the UK. He and his family often travel to the US. Here are his thoughts ...


On 9/11 I was at work at Thomas Cook travel agency, in the White Rose Shopping Centre, Leeds U.K.

It was a normal day but then, in the afternoon, everything started to change. People started to tell us that something was happening in New York, people started to mention things on phone calls, had we heard the news? had we seen what was happening?

The answer was no. We were completely isolated without access to TV, radio and internet was still relatively new.

Was it an accident, initially we presumed it must be but then the rumours grew into facts and the awful truth became clear. We handled things the best we could as flights were cancelled and tried to give people certainty when we had none ourselves then we went home to the TV news....

The terrible things I saw, I still remember and I remember feeling so sorry for the country that I love like a second home, why was his happening,? Who had done it? Was it selfish to be glad your family are all safe at home with you?

I have always felt a great closeness and attachment to my friends in America but never more than that day.

(This is the second in a series of views from outside of the US. Please read all that have already been posted as well as those that will be posted shortly.)

Aching arms (A 9/11 Guest Blog)

This first entry in our series of non-American views of 9/11 comes from Jane Furey. Jane is from Australia and is the publisher of A String of Pearls, an e-zine for women and by women. Follow Jane on Twitter at @JaneofAustralia

Jane has written a wonderful 10th anniversary tribute, highlighting one woman who was lost in the World Trade Center on that terrible day.


My son was in Korea during September 2001.  I had a cable connection so I could watch if the North invaded, and call him before they got there…yes really.
I’d fallen asleep with the TV on BBC and I was woken by silence interrupting the hum of normal broadcasting.  I sat up and looked at the screen only to see a plane fly into a building and wondered why the BBC was showing a movie…the shocked commentary told me this unreal scene was in fact real.
My phone called through the cacophony of the reporter’s cries, shattering my stillness. It was a young friend – like a daughter to me - visiting USA; distressed and needing to connect with home. Anna knows I am a night owl; across the world we watched together. Stunned, shocked, appalled all the cliché words applied, all the phrases that have become cliché still apply. ‘The world is changed forever’…how true this is.
I personally have an issue with the stated desire for revenge.  While on one level it is somewhat understandable, I also wonder if the price has been higher than anticipated.  During this journey to revenge, how have the mothers of all the fallen military felt about it? Though I am not American, I have boundless empathy. My heart broke too. I am a mother, I am woman with a sensitive feelings. I cried. I cry.
Rising above is a nobler approach. Yes, tougher, yet so much finer. How many children might still be joining their families this thanksgiving, how many arms would not ache from emptiness?  Lastly, I consider what grace and dignity might have been gained for the nation, and indeed for the world if a different response had been decided upon? When is enough revenge?
Finally, as I watch the documentaries and news reports this 10th anniversary I am again deeply moved. The sadness has not decreased.  I am shocked to hear of a medical clinic in New York with some six thousand patients, all of whom were in the area on 9/11. The casualty rate will rise for many years. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Thoughts on 9/11

The tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack is now just days away. I have asked a few of my non-US friends if they could write a few words about their thoughts on the day, its aftermath, or anything related to the events of September 11, 2001. I do not ask that they conform to my opinions ... they are free to speak their own mind, just as all of the readers of this blog are free - and encouraged - to reply.

Starting tomorrow I will post those thoughts.

On Sunday, the 10th anniversary of the attack, I will post myself.

I hope you find the exchange enlightening.