Friday, 1 July 2011

Almost a Decade Ago

The construction site where the twin towers used to stand

It's hard to believe almost 10 years ago September 11 changed our world forever.

I was in Toronto at the time taking a course. We just so happened to turn on the television that morning to watch a video when we saw the news reports of a plane that crashed into the World Trade Center.

A memorial to the firefighters who risked their lives
Seeing that image was shocking and unreal. How could that happen? And then another plane slammed into the other tower, now both were burning. Even more so was seeing the towers collapse in front of our eyes -- were we watching a horrible movie?

Our instructor warned that this event would reverberate around the world and he was right.

We were dismissed early from class and I remember returning home terrified. What was happening to the world we lived in? Canadians were concerned Toronto was next and that the CN Tower would be the target. We didn't sleep much that night, as we wondered who did this and was this the end of the world as we knew it?

A twisted steel girder from the wreckage
In the weeks and months after 9/11, there were numerous images of the giant pit where the pair of towers used to stand tall. On my last trip to New York almost 20 years ago I remember my relative's friend who had worked there, tell me that the area around the buildings had special barricades up by the entrances to prevent truck bombings like the ones that happened in Oaklahoma bombings in 1995. "These buildings are indestructible," I remember him saying.

Now almost a decade later there's a giant construction site in the place, trying to rebuild from the ashes something new but also a memorial to those who died.

Near the site is a plaque to remember the firefighters who risked their lives. It's a graphic description of what happened that crisp September morning with the words, "Dedicated to those who fell and to those who carry on". A volunteer firefighter recounted the day for visitors, telling stories of a few of those who tried to help.

Pictures of loved ones lost on September 11, 2001
Then around the corner is the WTC Tribute Visitors Center. For $15 you can relive the day again through pictures, objects and videos. They recovered a number of objects, from a burned out piece of the airplane wreckage to the twisted steel girders, even police guns that were partially melted in the burning wreckage.

The videos are so powerful, with people recounting the moment, or how volunteer civilians tried to help out for days at the site, digging in the hopes of finding people alive. They were also going through the rubble and realizing they were hardly making a dent in the massive site.

On two walls are a collage of pictures of those who died that day, from the ones who worked in the World Trade Center to those who tried to save them. Tissue boxes are placed nearby and it's hard not to feel sad for them.

An illustration of the future site that includes a memorial
In place of the two giant towers will include a memorial that looks like two squares of waterfall fountains to symbolize the twin towers.

September 11 seems like almost yesterday and yet so much has happened -- Osama bin Laden is now dead though there is still conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Was this all justified? We will never know. But we will never forget.

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