Friday, 9 September 2011

New York and 9/11

I am sure we all have memories of the 9/11 attacks on New York as it was so widely reported through the world and made the Americans realise that they were like the rest of us, targets for terrorists and that despite its military, economic and financial power it was just as open to attacks as the rest of the world.
Being English, I have been brought up through times in the countries history when terrorists attacked and killed English people. The IRA and the conflicts in Northern Ireland left a legacy of bombings, dead and violence in both England and Northern Ireland. I remember having to clear buildings of customers as my business had received bomb threats and special worded messages which could mean the threat was real. Clearing a building of 1000 people in 10 minutes was no fun and worrying and scary and exciting at the same time. Telling my regional director I had closed my business got a different reaction, but for the safety of the public we did this time and time again. 
Some parts of England were less lucky, Manchester and London both experienced huge terrorist threats and damage and death through the years and many people throughout England can tell stories of how these things impacted on their lives. 
Eventually peace and reconciliation and talks over came these issues and the threat of violence towards the English and the Irish has all but gone.

So when the terrorist attacks took place in New York, the world took a step back full of shock and wondered if the Americans were not safe then who was. 

For me I had been to New York before the event for a holiday and never had the time to go up the twin towers (the world trade center). Had I gone up them, then I could have seen the curve of the earth (on a clear day) and marveled at New York from up high. 
Then in 2001 I had the opportunity to attend a wedding in upstate New York as a school friend was getting married to a New Yorker. It was the best trip. 5 school and drinking friends plus wives or girlfriends spending a week together in New York for a great friends wedding. I still consider it one of the best trips I have been on and I can still remember some it quite clearly!!! 
We were in New York at the start of September and spent our days after the wedding in Brooklyn, taking the subway into the city and either did sightseeing or drinking or both. We also watched an England football match while we were there. It was dismal match but lots of fun. We saw all the sights, Empire State, Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, watched a show on Broadway. Went to Times Square at night and so on. 
The night before we were all due to fly home to England we went to a huge party and ended up in a complete mess as you do, especially when you are treated as family or distant cousins with all you can eat and drink provided free.
The flight home was a night flight so we had all day in New York and we ended up outside again  the Twin Towers, in Dunkin Doughnuts if I remember rightly. I used an ATM in the building as needed more cash. I have that receipt somewhere. Anyway there we are on a bright and sunny September morning wondering what to do. Led on the floor looking up at the towers thinking what to do. Do we go up and see the view, do we go shopping or do we just go drinking or do we do it all? 
Well, we ended up shopping and then going drinking for the rest of the day. We went to a store call Century 21 which I guess was kind of factory outlet.It was very close to the towers and was destroyed later that week. Eventually we just wandered around and then left and went to a bar and spent the rest of the day there. 
That was on the 7th September 2001. By the 8th we were home and life was going back to normal. Our friend in New York was back working in Wall Street we were back at work and one of my closest friends was heading out to America for a  holiday. 
On the 9th I was back at work and with my colleagues in the warehouse working. We had a radio and it was playing radio one. There was a news broadcast that a plane had hit the twin towers but there was little else said. Then another report about it and the news started to grow. 
Some employees were getting other news mainly from Sky News showing live images as the events happened. My business emptied and people seemed to be at home watching the news as the images were too real, visual and stunning to be ignored. 
By the time I got home it was just reruns and repeats on the news that's all but it remained on all channels for days. 
I could not reach either of my friends who were in America. My friend in New York was OK, covered in dust but otherwise fine. My friend flying to San Franciso was diverted but got there eventually. Everyone I knew was safe and sound. 

From there is recent history, The war in Iraq, The war in Afghanistan, the hunt of Bin Laden and his death. The rebuilding of New York and the increase in security getting into America as a visitor.The attacks have changed many things and the aftermath and effects from it have changed everyone's life in some way.

In 2006 I was travelling through Malaysia on a train and was eating lunch with some Malaysians. They asked me if I was American as they felt the country was a terrible place and they (the Americans) were doing terrible things to the world and making life harder. They admitted to hating Americans. Luckily I could tell them I was English and that cheered them and then when I said Tottenham Hotspurs were a good football team, they paid for my lunch! but that sentiment about Americans followed me through the world as often I was asked my opinions about Americans at that time. I can't quite really remember what I said but I could not agree that I supported president with his decisions but I did support the troops where ever they were fighting and the need to get them home safely and quickly. Not just the Americans but the British and everyone elses. 

At the end of 2006 I took another trip to New York before coming here and again it was just amazing. I have to say if I could I would love to live there. The city is so vibrant, alive and interesting. Ground Zero as it was called then was a big building site. You could take a subway train that ran past it and under it. We had lunch just up from the area and spent time looking at the memorial that was put there and is still there. It was very moving and poignant and there were many many people there paying their respects and wishes. It was sad to see but also good to see how people remembered it. 

Sadly I don't have the photos of my other trips. I wish I did. But these are of the ground zero site January 2007. 

Lets hope this 911 passes peacefully everywhere.

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