Monday, September 12, 2011

September 11th 2001, My Memories

The anniversary of September 11th 2001 brought back a lot of memories for everybody. Like most people, over the last week I watched several documentaries that brought me right back to the paralysing shock I felt ten years ago at seeing people jump 1000 feet to their deaths. On that day, I was a second year International Relations student in the American College Dublin. I was also the President of the Student Union. I was sitting on my own in the Student Union office when my father phoned me on my mobile to remind me that I had to come home early to babysit my brothers kids, as my other brother was graduating from university that day and most of the family were attending the ceremony. He then asked me if I was aware of what was happening in New York. Despite the fact that it was about 2pm (nearly two hours since the attacks began), I had heard nothing. He told me that two planes had been flown into the World Trade Center. I asked him if it was Islamic terrorism. He said he didn't know. I left the office immediately and walked the short distance to the common room in the residency where most of the American students lived. In the common room I found scores of students crowded around the TV watching reruns of the towers collapsing. Some sat in silence, some were crying and others were frantically trying to contact relatives. I chatted with friends as we speculated on what we thought was going down. Could it be a global attack on Americans? Should we be concerned? Shortly after I walked the five hundred meters from Mount Street to the Oscar Wilde House on the Corner of Merrion Square where the main buildings of the American College are located. I went into the deans office to discuss the situation. The dean, a New Yorker himself, and I discussed the situation and it was suggested that it may be wise to cancels all lectures for the remainder of the day. It was decided that it would be unnecessary to do this so at this point I simply went of to my first class of the new semester which was interestingly, US Post War Foreign Policy. Not surprisingly, all we talked about was what we had seen and heard on the news.

After class, I took a taxi back to Castleknock to fulfill my babysitting duties. On route, the female taxi driver and I talked about what was going on. I remember she told me her brother lived and worked in New Jersy. She hadn't phoned to enquire if everything was alright as she thought this would be excessively pannicky. When I reached home I found a note from my mother asking me to expect a call from a close family friend of ours whose daughter and husband lived in New York. My mother had been enquiring about them both but there was particular concern for the husband as he was an NYPD officer. We found out that night that he was fine as he was not working that day but naturally he was to have some harrowing stories from working at Ground Zero. At home that evening I spent many hours glued to the TV, just as many millions were doing all over the globe. I think I know what some of my readers are thinking at this stage. I am about to go into how 9/11 changed me, how I began to understand the evil of Islamic extremism and how this was the first step in me becoming a more conservative supporter of US Foreign Policy. Not so, in fact that night, in conversations with friends I remember talking about Hiroshima, Vietnam, the Gulf War and Iraqi sanctions as I lazily engaged in the left wing anti American version of history. At one stage, I think I even brought America's treatment of its native Indian population into the equation. For me, my conversion did not come for another three years, following a detailed study into Iranian suppression of political youth movements. But on that day itself, I think I was more consumed by the drama of it all, rather than the tragedy. Over the coming days however, the tragic and sombre reality began to replace any juvenile excitement I had as the numbers of dead became clear. In addition there were the several Irish killed on 9/11. The story of the Clifford family from Cork being perhaps the most tragic of any killed that day. I think the most dominant impression I had that day and in the following weeks was that sometimes in life, fact is stranger than fiction. I realised that almost anything can happen. To hope or assume that something will never happen does not make it so. For example, if Israel and the western world were to back down in the face of Islamic anger, (something which many argue would lead to world peace) it would be wrong to just hope or assume that Israel would not be wiped off the map, and that Europe would not be the next target. That is how 9/11 most affects my political thinking to this day. Below is a clip from last Friday's Late Late Show as Cork man Ron Clifford describes his experience on the moring of 9/11. Note: the Italian woman he describes helping does not survive her injuries.


Corner Guy said...

Although I was a 9 year old kid in 2001, I vaguely remember the day. By the time the first plane hit the tower, it was dinner time in India. My family then spent the entire night trying to get through to my uncle who used to work in the south tower. Thankfully, he missed a train that morning and hence could never reach the towers.

Ted Leddy said...

Corner Guy

Wow, Many people have similar stories about friends and relatives who had near death experiences. There were in fact over 40 Indian fatalities on 9/11

Rob Harris said...

Interesting post Ted. I was home the day 9/11 happened and someone I knew knocked on the door to tell me what was going on. He said it was probably the Palestinians as one of their groups had claimed responsibility.

Your point about lazy left wing anti-American analysis is apt particularly in Ireland. I recall a member of the American embassy speaking on Ireland AM (the breakfast show on TV3) just the day after 9/11 and Michael D. Higgins, along with the presenters, were extremely critical of America. They basically said it was tragic but it was a result of the US’s terrible foreign policies. The American appeared to be amazed by the response. I was too. Their argument came uncomfortably close to justifying the act - this at a time when it was estimated up to 50,000 could have died! Michael D. Higgins is a shabby bastard, and I hope he doesn't get the presidency.

Ted Leddy said...


Your description of the Higgins interview makes me cringe and just hope that not many Americans were watching. Bashing the US at the time became a trendy hobby. I look back at the time with embarrassment for myself and others.

Rob Harris said...

Ted, it was indeed a trendy hobby, if not something of a cultural zeitgeist which intensified since then. Back then my own feelings toward the US were also vaguely hostile, and it also took me a while to see what these lefty-ish people are like when the leash comes off, e.g. Higgins speaking on the same platform as the head of Hizbullah's Al-Manar TV in Boyd-Barrett's IAWM 2006 conference.

DAN said...

Why did you ever get through it Ted and all the concern was for those people in New York not you and the trauma that you went through.

Honest that was a bit overly self concerned.