WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER ABOUT 9/11 – 20 YEARS ON?

I can’t believe it is already, the 20th anniversary of 9/11. I wasn’t there, wasn’t personally affected by it and yet, that awful day affected many of us globally. It was one of those moments where we can remember where we were.

I was in a house in Somerset filming for a regional TV series called The Bargain Hunters and I was really enjoying it. Expecting my second child, Georgia, I’d been taken off the more hard-nosed current affairs series, as I’d had some problems in my first pregnancy and it was felt a gentler filming pace, with less stress would be appropriate.

The irony of this is, that actually there wasn’t less stress at all. Working in the field of antiques and collectibles, which I absolutely love, led to far more personal abuse than any other filming I have done. The reason –at that time, it was a sector of smoke and mirrors. A lot of people made a lot of money and living by ‘cash in hand’. However, TV shows, like The Bargain Hunters, shone a light on this practice, and many dealers didn’t like it.

On this particular day, we were filming a family who had a quirky home and collected quirky items to renovate an old school. I went downstairs to get some water and the TV was on. I saw the Twin Towers and the fact that one of them was on fire. Reading the scrolling news feed, I saw that a plane had crashed into that tower.  I sent a text my husband, Steve, to tell him to put on the TV.

Earlier in the year, we’d visited the Twin Towers during a trip to New York. We’d planned the trip months before, then I’d fallen pregnant, and by the time we visited, I felt sick most of the time. However, we’d had a lovely time wandering through the Twin Towers, marvelling at the vastness of the buildings, and of New York in general. After the visit I was so tired, I’d had to go to bed. Having enjoyed the city so much, we’d talked about going back when I wasn’t pregnant. But, we’ve not returned.

As I sent my text I watched another plane come into view and crash into the other tower. At that point, I knew, this was no accident. I called to the crew and they all came down and together, we watched the TV in absolute silence. It was eerie to watch and we all knew people were dying before our eyes.

Over the centuries, there have been many global atrocities. However, this one was being played out on the world stage of TV, social media and 24-hour rolling news feeds. It was utterly consuming. I know at some point I started crying, crying for the deaths, for the trauma for 1000s of people and for the fall-out which would come from it. Somehow in an instant it was clear this would cost many more lives in different places and at different times.

Having been to that place the same year, it could have been me, it could have been Steve, it could have been our unborn child. I’m sure many 1000s of others who had visited the Twin Towers even as tourists would have felt the same way. How many were there and lost their lives due to sheer dumb bad luck?

Now as that anniversary is upon us and our own daughter, Georgia, approaches her 20th birthday, I am looking at 10 things this terrorist attack has taught me.

  1. The inhumanity of some humans to others — often justified by religion, creed, dogma, doctrine or extremism — knows no bounds.
  2. You can never reason with extremist views. They are often built on emotion and deep trauma in a person who is looking for something impossible and gathers with others who feel the same. Someone who is prepared to die and kill others for a belief, can never be reasoned with.
  3. There will always be heroes – those who in the blink of an eye, will step up, and these are the real angels. It’s good to notice them.
  4. Life is a gift and it can be gone in an instant. Live daily with gratitude.
  5. When you suffer loss, you want the world to stop and mourn with you — this was one incident where, for a moment, that seemed to happen. However, the world keeps turning and in the end that helps with the grieving process because it allows you to move forward even if it’s very slowly. There have been many global incidents that have had a global impact that is personal, such as this; the Second World War; the Holocaust; Hiroshima; Nagasaki; the Rwandan killing fields are just a few which come to my mind.
  6. The media are not immune. The traditional media is made up of human beings who may have reported on that day (some in New York) for days and days, then over years and years and that can impact them too. It can consume them. They are human beings too.
  7. Such an incident can be terribly divisive (we’ve seen this with Covid19) we can become polarised, blaming people because they just happen to have the same skin colour, have historic heritage from the same part of the world — we can use such an incident to hate others for which there is no reasonable justification.
  8. We saw a tightening of security around the world, around air travel, around major buildings (Parliament in the UK for example), we were searched more. I accept this however it saddens me.
  9. The biggest heroes were those who knew they were going to die, faced that terror and still their thoughts were of love for their families, their spouses, their children, their parents and they sent messages of love, not messages of hate. When there was nowhere to go, no hope, they focussed on love.
  10. And finally, I think of those on United Airlines Flight 93 who knew they were going to die, knew there was no hope for them but they fought to save the lives of others unknown to them on the ground. The plane crashed in Somerset county Pennsylvania. I didn’t know any of these people and it is these people I remember the most. May their memory endure.

*Image shows Georgia born a few weeks after 9/11…