I still remember where I was 10 years ago. One of the employees came in and said he’d heard on the radio that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. I can remember how we were all shocked and were wondering what had happened. At first we thought it wasn’t true or that it had been an accident. We went to the meeting room and turned on the TV. We watched the scenes in horror, and I remember how we were hoping that someone would get the people out from the upper floors via helicopters. One of the employees was a former marine and he explained to us how difficult and dangerous it would be to mount such a rescue. We were talking about the tragedy unfolding in front of our eyes when the second plane hit.
I can’t describe what went on the rest of the day. We were all frantically trying to get in touch with friends and family. At one point there were rumors that there were still a number of flights up in the air, with destinations to major cities, and someone stated that air control didn’t have contact to some of them. We tried to get in touch with everyone who we knew who was working in tall buildings – I finally managed to get in touch with my sister and my cousin and updated them since they didn’t have a TV in their office, and told them to go home, to get out of the upper floors of the buildings they were working in.
I was scheduled to teach Karate that evening and was talking to Hanshi, our head teacher, whether we should cancel classes that day. He decided that classes should take place as scheduled – those who couldn’t manage or cope wouldn’t come, but it would be important to maintain some sort of routine for the children.
My father was scheduled to fly to New York on September 12, and then to DC, but everything was cancelled. My father’s colleague who was working in downtown DC, three blocks away from the White House. He told us how the streets were packed, how everybody ended up walking to their various homes, some of them walking miles and miles. I don’t know how people who worked in suburban Virginia or Maryland managed.
I remember seeing all the flowers being placed at all the embassies around the world, how people were expressing their condolences. I remember how le Figaro, one of the most important French newspapers carried the headline “Nous sommes tous Americains” (We are all Americans).
I remember seeing the flag from the World Trade Center being carried during the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games in February 2002, and how I started to tear up. I remember driving up I-395 into DC a week after that and seeing the side of the Pentagon that had been hit by the plane first hand from my car.
It’s been 10 years, and in some ways the world changed. But life has moved on. We’re resilient, and we don’t let ourselves be intimidated by terrorists.