Sunday, September 11, 2011

Where were you on this day ten years ago?

I was at home in Kuwait watching Good Morning America with Dianne Sawyer.  As she reported about the 1st plane hitting, the 2nd one hit.  I terrified because my mother was travelling that day; possibly thru Boston to NY. After 2nd plane hit and I watched it live on TV, I sat in my living room crying my eyes out, thinking she was on that plane, until I knew she was ok.  I'm sure my neighbors must have heard me because I was scream-sobbing so loud. 

My sister was in her office in VA close to Dulles airport in the DC area. I called her and she didn't know it had happened; thought I was being a nuissance (she was in the middle of her sales meeting) and hung up on me!  I guess I wasn't too coherent and probably made no sense, shouting, 'Where is mom!  Where is mom!'  Within minutes, fighter jets were flying over her office, cell phone service was down, and she was rushing to get her son from school - like every other parent in the Mid-Atlantic region. The roads were full of emergency service vehicles and the fighter jets continued circling.  Employees in my sisters office had family members who worked at the Pentagon and couldn't get through to them on phones.

I felt very very alone sitting in my apartment in Kuwait.  The most horrific thing for me was seeing people jumping from the towers to escape burning to death.  When the plane hit the Pentagon, (I later found out) my friends living close by felt it from their homes.  There were immediate reports that car bombs were being detonated around the DC area and no one knew what would hit next. Everyone was sad and confused.  It was like the end of the world.

My Kuwaiti friends started calling me right away; asking if I needed anything and expressing their compassion and support; some were crying. Nobody could believe it.  It still looked like an action movie and it couldn't be real.  TV channels repeated the scenes over and over again.

Some people in a high rise across the street from my building in Salmiya put out a huge American flag on their balcony.  They took it down right away - probably not wanting to be a target.

The next day, I was crossing a street downtown and some (foreign Arab) young men were celebrating in the street and shouted at me that they were happy at what had happened.  It was shocking and scary.  I just put my head down and started crying again.  How could people be so heartless?   I heard that Kuwait immediately deported several groups of young Palestinian men (along with their families) who were celebrating in the street and handing out candies (maybe the same guys who harrassed me).
My cousin, a nurse who lived in Alaska, travelled to New York to volunteer and work at ground zero.  She, like others, were shocked that there were no need for medical crews following the fall of the towers.  She told me about the rescue dogs that accompanied their team and how they had to bring them down from the wreckage of the towers because their paws were getting burnt from the still-hot wreckage even days later.

For those of us who have worked hard - either personally or professionally - to promote better Arab/Western relations  (in small or large ways), 9-11 was a terrible shock to the system.  My thoughts turned to how my Moslem friends in the US would be treated and would feel.  We all know that travel to the US from the GCC declined drastically after 9-11.  When I went to Virgina last month, I noticed that there are a lot more Gulf Arabs than there have been in previous years either visiting or living in/around DC.  It has been a sloooooow process to get things back to normal.

I think most Americans have personal stories of how 9-11 affected them.  We all know where we were that day and perspectives of how much things have changed since.  I still can't believe that it has been 10 years.  It still hurts to see the photos and listen to the stories and it feels very recent.


Possumdawg said...

I was teaching a class in Atlanta Georgia. I stopped class and we watched the news. I was hopeful I would be called to active duty but it never happened. I remember watching as people choose to die by jumping out of windows instead of burning to death.

tom said...

I was living near Jacksonville FL at the time and just finished the third shift and was drinking my morning after work drinks of Crown. An online friend from Australia sent me a text message asking me about the plane hitting the 'World Trade Building' since i was from NY. Didnt know about it and turned on the TV to see the live coverage.

After watching a little while I saw the second plane hit. At that point, I went to the closet and pulled out all my rifles, pistols and ammunition and loaded everything up because I knew we were at some kind of war at that point and didnt know what was next.

Somehow I knew Osama was behind it all.