I was about to dig into a slice of my cousin’s birthday cake when I was unceremoinuously dragged away from it. ‘You have to see this!’, my father said. I weakly protested the forced abandonment of the fat slice of butterscotch cake sitting on my plate. As I walked in step with him, I saw people stream out from other parties of that evening in the hotel and walk with us toward the lobby. I wondered if there was something special happening that night – perhaps a show put on for us?
We reached the source of the commotion. A television. Showing what my 16 year old mind could only comprehend as scenes from a movie. The screen showed people running. in the thousands. Something wasn’t right. Surely this movie wasn’t that great. Why are we watching this? It was then that the tiny ‘BBC’ logo caught my eye. This was for real. I watched on in awe as a plane smashed into a tall building. As the building crumbled like it was made of paper, another plane flew straight into the identical building next to it.
The entire lobby was silent while screams of the people on screen echoed. I looked up at my father to see the expression on his face. It was a mixture of shock and amazement. I looked back at the tv and wondered why the pilots of two planes got so hopelessly lost that they rammed their planes into buildings.I watched on as the panicked reporters tried to relay information to us. ‘Hijacked’..’terrorists’…’attack’…’world trade center’ were a few words that I caught.
I looked up at my father and asked, ‘Can I finish my dinner?’ Realizing that I wouldn’t truly understand the enormity of the situation, he let me get back to my cake.
In the days that followed, I read about the attack in vivid detail. I began to ask questions. I was told – ‘Oh these terrorists are crazy. They know nothing better than to attack innocent people.’ I nodded. I slowly realized that it didn’t end there. News trickled in about people losing jobs. ‘9/11’, they said. ‘It has ruined our lives’, they said. ‘We don’t know what to do’. I felt sorry for the people who had lost their lives then and the people who were losing their livelihood now. I wondered what one terrorist group could want with so many innocent people. ‘It is just crazy’, I was told. I nodded.
Nine years later, people had picked up the pieces and continued on, though no one had forgotten or forgiven the horrors of 9/11. Then one day, the news channels came alive. ‘Breaking news’, they screamed. ‘He is dead!’ There were pictures of people rejoicing at the death of the ‘Most Wanted’ man. I watched the celebrations for sometime. Reporters were falling over themselves to capture the emotions of everyone around. Once again the country joined together to receive the news of death. This time they were celebrating. I picked up the phone. ‘Did you hear?’ ‘Yes’, came my father’s voice on the other side, ‘I just did.’ ‘So what do you think?’, I asked him. ‘Let’s hope this war has finally ended.’ I caught some of what was being said on tv. ‘Frayed relations’…’intelligence’…’operation’….’justice’… ‘celebration’ were interspersed with happy faces singing.
‘So, did you finish your dinner?’ asked my father.
I smiled. ‘I just did.’
And life goes on.