There are a few days and years in history you never forget. Days on which you have witnessed the making of history. They are engraved in your memory.
For many people the day John. F. Kennedy was killed is such a day. I was too young to really remember seeing it. I only know the TV images I saw much later.
Another day is the day Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. I was on vacation with my parents and my younger brother in Switzerland. We sat on my parents’ bed in the middle of the night and listened to a small battery operated transistor radio. It had a lot of interference and it was all in English and German, so my dad tried to explain to us what happened. I remember that it was so difficult to imagine what it was like.
In Europe the day the Berlin Wall fell (in 1989) was also a historic day. I sat glued to my television set until late in the night, afraid that I would miss anything. My father took us to the Iron Wall in Germany when we were kids, to show us what it looked like and how close it was to home. As an Air Force officer, my dad was very conscious of the dangers of communism. He explained to us that the Wall was to keep people in, not out. And we realized then that the Iron Wall was only a four hour drive from our house – an unsettling thought! So, when the Berlin Wall (and by that the Iron Wall) fell, it was as if part of my life changed. It felt as if World Peace had come!
And then came 11 September 2001. Just an ordinary day. I was at school, it was about 4.30 in the afternoon, all the children were gone and we just started to go home when the telephone rang. Our principals wife shouted that we had to see the TV, for “World War 3 has started!!” We ran to a TV set and watched in absolute silence the burning first Tower – and the endless repeats of what happened. The Dutch commentator stated that the threat to us, the Netherlands, was very real, that attacks on buildings in Amsterdam were very possible. We looked at each other and just didn’t know what to say … Then we all went home, all feeling as if we’d never see each other again.
At home I called my parents. My mother was shocked when she answered the phone. While we were talking, I looked at the TV and saw the second plane coming toward the Towers. I never forget the sickening feeling in my stomach when I realized that it was going to hit the second Tower. My mother gasped when we, in stunned silence, watched what happened.
There was nothing to say …
That evening and far into the night I watched the television. It was difficult to go to sleep. Next day the TV at school was on all day. We watched CNN, BBC-World and Dutch television as much as possible. There was still the threat of attacks on Amsterdam buildings, and bridges and tunnels. We felt as if the world was about to end …
The next months we watched the volunteers searching at Ground Zero, we saw funerals and we heard commentaries. Very slowly the world seemed to become “normal” again.
But it never did.
We live in another world now. Nothing is like what it was before 9/11. We have to live with the constant threat, the knowledge that it happened in Spain too, and in London. And that it can happen again. Even in our little country behind the dikes. It’s not something you think about every day. But it’s there, all the time. Some days more visible then others. You see it in politics, at airports, in the street (we have to be able to identify ourselves at all times, something unheard of before 9/11). You see it in the constant fear for Islam.
Some days and years in history you never forget. 9/11 changed history forever!
(photo by me and Internet)