Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Where were you...?

This is a day unlikely to ever be forgotten. Not by American people, and not by anybody else either. Weather you live or not on the North American continent, unless you were and are still living in a cave you know what day is today.

There are few days that I recall as vividly as today, 11 years ago - and none bringing back that feeling of forbidden, of emptiness, of speechless like this day. Every September 11th I go through the same emotions over and over and over again.

I have no personal loss from that day, but I think there is a general and generic feeling of loss we all bear.

Usually we would drive into work together (hubby and I almost always worked together :)) and that day was no different. We would go later, leaving home around 9:30 to arrive at about 10:00 in the office and we would have the radio on country music. At home - we would watch TV before leaving. Not sure why that morning we didn't watch any TV and had the radio in the car turned off. It was around 9:30 am and we were somewhere around Mississauga when our phone rang - an email from my mother in law, sent from Europe, asking if we are OK and talking about what a tragedy this is. First I panicked... then I was confused... while I automatically turned the radio on I found the CBC and heard in horror the anchors... calling the 2nd tower going down. It took a long while to figure out what had happened - the reporters were as confused as we were.

I still cannot talk about that moment without crying - for me it is an unthinkable moment, a senseless one. I am a very logical person and for me there is still no reason anyone would kill innocent people in the time of peace. I understand it would happen during war... but this was a perfectly nice and peaceful day! To this day - every September 11th I am quite a useless person - I have no energy and no will to do anything than sit, think, and pray.

The moment is a crossroad in my life - of course lots of events lay themselves temporally before or after the event. But many of my life decisions have been altered by that day. It was, probably, the day when I completely grew up, abruptly, in one split of a second. And I learned one important thing: life is not only precious, life is ephemeral. Nobody can guarantee you tomorrow - all you have is right now, this moment. It's up to you to live right now.

Just a day or so after 9/11 Alan Jackson (one of my favourites country singers ever) came with a song: "Where were you (when the world stopped turning)?". There were many songs afterwards, but that was the first I heard - and it's the most beautiful: the emotions of the day are captured in a very simple (thus more efficient) manner in the day-to-day questions, and the meaning of these simple questions has changed through the change of context.

Every time I hear the song (or I remember it) I also remember perfectly where I was and what I was doing. I remember the feeling of immobility, of mental paralysis, which almost immediately became physical and enveloped me for a long time. We watched for hours, days, weeks - at first hoping, then just being sad... and all the time praying.

Where were we that day? We were in another world, a world that ended that day, September 11th, 2001 at 8:47 am. A world we will never recover as it was.

What did we do since? For a few years - not much, we worked, worked, worked... until a few more things happened in our lives (one good, one sad, and many-many others in between) - and then we sat down one day, looked at each other and asked ourselves: what are we doing? And we have changed almost everything in our lives since - we try to live in the moment more; we appreciate every moment we are being gifted with, every friend we have, every person that touches our lives; we pray more, we smile more, we laugh more.

Where were you when the world stopped turning?


  1. I was at home doing (who knows what). The phone rang and when I answered it, my daughter asked me to put the TV on, because the building she was workng in had lost all communicaions ability (her building used the communication tower at the top of the building). When I did, the first tower was smoking and the second had not yet been hit. It looked like a raging fire and all I could think of were the brave firemen who would have to battle it. I sat incredulous as events unfolded and when the second tower was hit I called my daughter back to tell her what had happened. She immediately started to cry, because a friend at work had been talking to her mother (who worked in that second tower) and then the phone abruptly went dead. I didn't know her, but I felt her pain, and to this day, still do.

  2. Thank you Alicia for a beautiful remembrance.


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