11 Sept 2010

9/11 and me

The only memory I have of nine years ago is standing in my mum's room watching the tv while she pulled, combed and gelled my hair into a bun for dancing. Seeing two buildings on fire went through me. Hearing the chaos, nightmare and devastation went in one ear and out the other. I can't remember if I asked questions. I probably did. But my simple "Why are they on fire? What happened?" questions would have got a simple "Planes crashed into them, darling." answer. 

I had just turned 8 years old when it happened. I wasn't old enough to understand everything about that day, it just happened and I accepted it. Realised it was bad but soon forgot about it and moved on to think about more important things, like what accessories should I get my new Barbie.

But that day was just the tragic beginning of a series of events that I would, as I got older, absorb more and more and understand the reasoning behind it and form my own opinions. 2003 brought the official (I think) declaration of war on Iraq. Now 10 years old, I knew what wars were, but it was happening in another country so I wasn't that bothered. Let them get on with it it'll be fine. 2004 was the Madrid train bombings year. Again, another country so I didn't have anything to do with it. 

These events were the norm for a child like me. Nothing shocked me after 9/11. Explosions happen in Eastenders all the time, and they always go back to normal soon, so why should I be scared, sad and worried? I was almost confused sometimes as to why there was no mention on the news of a fire. If the word 'bomb', 'explosion' or 'terrorist' didn't escape the mouths of newsreaders, then I seriously thought something was wrong. Nothing was happening. How boring, my naive self thought.

I was nearly 11 in 2005. My last year at primary school. I'd done my big scary SATS exams, got into the secondary school I wanted, and Thursday 7th July was the first day of our Year 6 play. I knew something was wrong when a boy in my class walked in late. We were filing out to go to playtime for lunch, and my best friend and I were at the end of the queue. 

I heard the whispers first. 

"It's all on fire" he sobbed to his own best friend "Loads of people have died, they're all screaming and crying and trains just exploded. My dad's there! I think my dad's dead Adam!"


I grabbed Clare's cardigan and for the first time in my life, felt the blood drain from my face and felt it all gather in my heart where it was pumping fast and furiously. I knew she had heard too. We looked at each other in confusion as we glanced at this boy. "Is it true? Why is it on fire? Is it near here? Is London near here?" I ran over and asked this in earnest. "London's right near here, there were bombs and explosions and fire and loud noises. People are trying to blow us up." My mind was racing as he tried to explain what he saw and heard. Clare and I rushed down to the lunch hall and in a fluster told everyone on our table what had happened. Then they told the next table. Then children started crying. Then those children ran out to tell everyone on the playground. The lunch hall was our version of NYC on 9/11.

We were intelligent kids. We might have only been 11 years old but we knew this was really bad and we wanted to find out more. So our whole class, teachers oblivious, ran to our classroom, switched on the teacher's radio and immediately were stunned into silence. The noise was horrific. The crying. The screaming. My mind was transported back to my mum's bedroom. The sounds were the same, and suddenly I realised that this was REAL. Friends burst into tears shouting "MY DADDY WORKS IN LONDON!" and teachers began to run in, hearing the commotion, and switched the radio off. Comforting the crying ones, they told them that everything was going to be okay, their daddies would be okay. This was happening to us. This wasn't in a different country. This was here. 20 minutes away. 

Now at 17 I know how really catastrophic all those happenings were. Every year I learn more of 9/11 from watching  the documentaries. But still nothing shocks me. Every stabbing, every soldier death, every hostage is an every day thing to happen in my world. That must sound awful to hear, but I know nothing different. Terrorists have always existed, and wars are like schools. Necessary. When my generation are in charge of the world, will we be bothered about it all? Or will it take something incredible, like the destruction of a whole country, to make us sit up and say "OMG."?

It began on 9/11.

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