This year's incoming high school freshman were born a year after 9/11. Their knowledge of our country's tragedy will come from textbooks and lectures. But I will never forget how that day smelled, felt, and sounded.
Fifteen years ago, on September 11, 2001, I was driving to a dentist's appointment. Windows down, radio blaring. A news report interrupted the program I was listening to. Said a plane had struck a building in New York City. Details to follow. An hour later, I walked out into the crisp, cloudless September morning.
Learned the world had changed.
In honor of this anniversary, I reached out to Talking to the World interviewees and asked them to share their thoughts about 9/11.
From 8 very different places in the world, here is how people remember 9/11 and its lasting impact.
From Christine in Liberia
I was in the library on campus. I was a freshman then, with lots of assignments for the first week of school. All of a sudden, everyone ran into the cafeteria to make sense of the commotion that suddenly filled the campus. What was being shown on the television screen could not be true. Mixed emotions filled the room: tears, heavy sighs etc.
Suddenly, in about 15 minutes, the Twin Towers had been bombed.
Every media outlet made it a "duty" to report the bombings several times during each hour of the day. It was difficult not to know that the attacks had happened. From my end, the television in my school's cafeteria fed us information about the attacks.
It's no argument that the US is a super power. To have been crippled by the bombings, as it were, I asked myself, "where on earth is safe?" I was crushed because humanity seemed lost at the moment.
The attacks have reinforced lack of trust among people and made most people suspicious of others.
From Hanifa in Indonesia
While I would like to write to you about how I felt when 9/11 happened, I was only 4 years old. A girl whose responsibility was just playing.
I probably heard about it when I was in elementary or middle school but never really think about it.
Sure I feel bad about it, but I didn't realize the real impact at the time.
I know now that the attack made Americans very wary about strangers and Muslims.
Actually, my exchange year in the US happened because of the attack. Kennedy Lugar Youth Exchange and Study was made to connect Americans with people from a majority Muslim country. So while I never remember about the attack, 9/11 made a lasting effect that I can feel.
From Denisa in Slovakia
I am a journalist so even though my husband and I worked in a small office of our private business since 1999, we would always have a TV on in the background, on a silent mode, most of the time with CNN or BBC, replaced by notifications from all relevant US media on smarts these days.
That morning it took us a while to understand the pictures of horror in anchors' faces and the smoke coming out of the building being part of the news. It actually took us a while to put the volume up as we felt kind of paralyzed until the phones started to ring and more news about more violence and horror were streaming in. The media were confused, so the number of buildings being hit as well as the numbers of planes and attacks rose and it seemed that other cities will be attacked and maybe the third world war was started.
Putting the sound to the pictures had not made it much better. We heard what we saw, but nobody understood more than that a tragedy had happened. I remember a former colleague of mine, working for the government agency, who was about to land in the US and whose plane was converted calling her sister, telling her to take care of her daughter, to take her to the home outside of the city as the terrorists would probably hit the centre of the Slovak capital first...
Each year, when going to NYC, we go to the Ground Zero. We touch the names of those, who remind us of people we know, we listen to the water falling down and enjoy the glory of the place, rising of the Oculus like a Phoenix over the ashes of those, who will never be forgotten. Never ever.
From Alejandro in Venezuela
I was at work, at “Lear de Venezuela”, a Venezuelan subsidiary of the Lear Corporation, an automotive parts supplier in San Diego, Venezuela, for the local car assembly companies, located at Valencia. Our clients were all US owned companies.
I was called for a meeting with the company’s general manager. He had already been notified and prompted to turn on the TV in the meeting room to watch the news. By the time we saw the images, only one plane had crashed with the towers. We saw live both when the second plane crashed and when the towers came down. Later we learned about the other two crashes.
Absolutely terrible, for a lot of reasons. I am an aeronautical engineer with a great deal of interest in aviation safety (which influenced a lot in my decision to develop a career in quality assurance). I was generally involved in my workplace's safety teams. How could it be possible that a civilian plane struck a building out of its route? At that stage of my life, I had already developed repulsion for military stuff, and there they were, civilian aircraft loaded with passengers, being used as weapons. Something was really wrong with the world.
Another issue that affected me was that as a fan of civilian Flight Simulators, for years, due to the lack of detailed sceneries for most of the world, when bored, we virtual pilots used to perform stunts around – or between – the major cities major buildings, like the Eiffel Tower at Paris, or the Statue of Liberty, and the World Trade Center at New York. What we most attempted was flying between the towers while flying a prop airplane, a bizjet or an airliner. Crashing against the towers was a sign of poor piloting skills. Even later our beloved civilian Flight Simulator software was pointed out as a tool used by terrorist during the planning of the attacks. The release of the new version we were waiting for was delayed for some months, while the company, Microsoft, decided what to do. When released, for first time in its history, the MS Flight Simulator didn’t include the WTC.
Aviation seemed not to be the safer way of transportation anymore. The worldwide actions taken to assure that it was safe from the terrorism, took a lot of joy from us, the aviation lovers. We were no longer able to access aircraft cockpits in flight (sometimes we were able spend the whole flight there). We were not longer able to walk around parked airplanes at airports. Nor to watch them go and come from open spaces at the airports. Now there were fences all around, and closed doors. And as travelers, we are treated as suspects all the time.
The changes in aircraft regulations ruled out several types of airplanes flown by the most modest airlines, taking companies to bankruptcy and reducing the amount of jobs in aviation a lot. That bothered me a lot, as I expected.
I am far from being a fan of conspiracy theories, but as an aviation professional and engineer there were some things related to the attacks that did not make any sense. Things that are not easily noticed by the untrained eye, but for some of us, were far from reasonable. And the more I learn about the stuff, the more conflictive and uncomfortable is my position regarding the attacks.
From Nandita in India
I was home in Chennai at the time of the attacks.
It was late Tuesday evening. I was watching the television – actually I was surfing -- and I happened to see a visual of a plane crashing into a building.
At first I thought it was just a movie – you know, make belief. But when I realized I was watching the news channel BBC - it dawned in me that what I was seeing was not make belief but rather real. The feelings of disbelief, shock, fear were what I felt in rather quick succession as I watched the visuals. I was concerned about the safety of the people and in particular my family in the States and was constantly on the phone – but of course I was unable to get through as all the lines were jammed.
The word terrorism and the impact of its cruel and cold touch is firmly etched in my mind. I come from India where it is not an uncommon occurrence hearing of a terrorist attack. However, the sheer magnitude of the attack in 9/11 is what has left a lasting impact. What we all saw that day was mass murder being played out on live television – as we watched, helpless people young and old fight for their lives. 9/11 was not just an attack on the States; its effects were felt far and wide.
The immediate effect which we felt – particularly being of Asian origin -- was while traveling in the west, where we were constantly subject to additional security checks at the airports. Being brown skinned immediately seemed to raise a red flag in security.
The lasting impression is that we are not safe anywhere in the world from the deadly tentacles of terrorism and the warped minds of terrorists.
From James in Puerto Rico
I was at home, getting ready to leave for the office.
My brother called me and said "A small ultra light aircraft crashed into the WTC".. at first, the video that first came out gave that impression, subsequent reports confirmed that it was a commercial aircraft.
At first, the news was that it was an accident. My thoughts were about how the hell did they mess up so much to end up crashing into the middle of the building. Then the second one hit. I watched that live. I felt worried, then angry.
9/11 changed my life forever. The economic impact was devastating, as it coupled with the recession and affected international markets. Since I travel for a living, it has impacted everything about travel till this day. The extra hassle at security, the added costs, the insecurity, etc.
The second that plane hit the first building, the world as we knew it ceased to exist.
From Aziz in Iran
I didn't know there was a terrorist attack. I was living in Tehran at that time and was driving home.
When I got home I saw my father-in-law and my wife were watching TV. When I saw the screen of a building collapsing I thought they were watching an action movie. However, when I asked them what film they were watching, they said " terrorists attacked the towers of the World Trade Center of America."
I was very shocked and didn't believe it at first. I didn't think that this could happen in America and after a while, when I had calmed down, I felt grief for the innocent people that died during the event.
The impact it had on my life is now I have deeper vision on life and (the knowledge) that not anywhere in the world is safe enough from fanatic people.
From Anita in Austria
It was early in the afternoon. I finished my work for the day, left my office in the city of Klagenfurt, and went home to my small flat. I turned on the TV and saw the first pictures from the attack in the news. I switched to an English speaking news channel and stared speechless at the screen. I could not believe it. Then the towers went down. I had tears in my eyes. At this time, I had never been in the USA, but my thoughts were with the people. I impatiently waited until my boyfriend finished his work, to talk about the attacks and share my bewilderment.
It was a sad day for the whole world.
The world became smaller and got closer together. We have to be more careful, but not afraid. We have to live in the moment and use the time with the ones we love with more awareness. History and memories we should never forget, but it is also important to look forward and think about a better future.
I felt powerless. You can´t do anything, you can´t help, you can only watch – this is hard. Yet we need news and professional journalism with ethical principles more than ever – to classify happenings, to understand developments and to form your own opinion.
Like I said, the world become smaller in many ways. But I am not afraid. I travel a lot and in the meantime I often visit the USA. I like the country. And in few months I will be visited New York and the 9/11 memorial and museum. It is important that people have a place to remember and the possibility to share their feelings and the history.
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