Saturday, September 10, 2011

9/11: 10 years on

Can you believe it's been 10 years? In the 3 or so years since I started this blog I don't think I've ever wrote about my memories of 9/11. All Americans have unique experiences surrounding this event no doubt; I am no different.

I was actually in Ghana, West Africa when 9/11 happened. I was traveling back from a priest friend's home located about 1.5 hours outside of the capital city, Accra. I had taken a bus & was boarding a tro-tro when the driver informed me "America has been blown up". I just thought he was crazy, but then he tuned the radio to the BBC Africa service & indeed something odd was going on in NYC: a plane had hit one of the World Trade Center towers. "Bummer", I thought, "But accidents happen." As we continued our journey towards Legon, the suburb where the university was located, a second plane hit. Something was up.

Once we reached the university I immediately went to the international students' coordinator's house since I knew she had satellite tv. I arrived just as the first tower fell; I think every American student at the university was crowded into that 10x10 room. People were taking turns on the land line (cell phones weren't common place then like they are now in Africa) trying to get through to family back home. But the phone lines were jammed; nobody could get through. Some of us went to one of the internet cafes on campus. Again, the internet was overwhelmed that day, though we did manage to get access & send e-mails the next day.

I'd been in Ghana about a month at that point. The WTC was pretty much the last glimpse of the US I had as I flew out of JFK (my program had us all meet there & fly together) through Europe & onto Africa. Coming back about 3.5 months after 9/11, it was a completely changed landscape both literally & figuratively.

I have an uncle who's a firefighter in northern NJ; I thought of him as I knew they had called in anyone & everyone in the tri-state area with equipment to help. He spent his spare time over the next several weeks digging through the rubble, finding body parts. There was another student whose dad was a policeman in the city; he died that day. Many students actually returned to the US early, shaken by the experience.

Back home, my dad was working in Boston at the time. They shut down the commuter trains & subways for a time so getting home that day was an absolute nightmare for him & many others. 2 of the 4 planes that day had left from Logan Airport, including a flight one of my dad's brothers frequently took for business trips to LA. Thankfully he wasn't on that flight that day, but the brother of a high school friend was, along with his girlfriend.

I've never talked with my husband about his memories from that day. At the time, we did not know each other; we wouldn't actually meet until almost 5 years later. He had only been in the US a few weeks when 9/11 happened. As a brown-skinned guy, I wonder if he was subjected to any of the anti-Muslim rhetoric that was running rampant then (& to a degree, now) even though he's Hindu. Again, I've never asked him. He's actually flying back from India on 9/11; hopefully he doesn't get a special frisking.

Since getting back from India a week ago the tv has pretty much been nonstop 9/11. We're all a decade older & hopefully wiser. I know back then marriage wasn't even on my radar, let alone children. I just assumed both things would happen in their own time but knew it would be a challenge to find someone who would be accepting of me doing things like, oh, going to Africa. And then we'd get married & make babies & I'd strap my kid to my back like they do in Ghana with a piece of cloth:

I've since been back to Africa a few times. Not with my husband & not recently; this little thing called work gets in the way. Some may say I've traded in Africa for India, but I do hope to get back sooner rather than later. I always planned on dragging my kids around the world with me; I just hope that's still going to happen: not the travel part, but me having kids to tag along.

1 comment:

kthappy76 said...

I was also abroard over 9/11/01 and it definitely shapes your experience of the events. I think I might have to write about this today too, thanks for the inspiration.