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9/11: Remembering the irredeemable

25 91 766
07.09.2021

On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, I woke up habitually early. I started reading and writing while still in bed, blissfully unaware of what was happening just a few kilometres away in downtown Manhattan. Our Upper West Side apartment on the Columbia University campus in New York is quietly tucked away from the rambunctious downtown and commercial midtown in a pleasant residential area that might as well be in rural Scandinavia.

My landline rang (back then, cell phones were just a bizarre oddity and we still used old-fashioned landlines to communicate). It was a friend with worry in his voice. He asked if I was OK, and when I told him I was fine, he instructed me to turn on my TV.

When the TV screen lit up, I saw that our city was under attack. The magnificent Twin Towers of the World Trade Center had been hit by aeroplanes and were crumbling. People were running for their lives. I don’t remember the hour – time had stood still.

My thoughts immediately went back to April 15 of the same year, when I had taken my eldest daughter Pardis to the Windows on the World restaurant on top of the North Tower for her birthday. I remembered how we watched aeroplanes land on and take off from the nearby Newark airport. I remembered telling her, “Isn’t that bizarre, we watch planes landing and taking off under our feet!”

Half in disbelief half in despair, I got dressed and, along with a few other scared souls, started walking towards downtown where the attack had occurred. The streets were eerily empty. There was a bizarre hush about the city. We, New Yorkers, are noise addicts. Too much quiet gives us anxiety. That morning, there was too much quiet about the city. I started looking at the buildings on Broadway as if they were children who had just lost their parents downtown but were still unaware of it.

The small crowd of bewildered people I was part of stopped at Houston Street.

I saw some Japanese tourists collecting the dust of the collapsed Twin Towers from the cars parked in the street as souvenirs. Strange, I thought – the dust of bricks, cement, flesh, coffee cups, and the dreams of those who had perished.

I began reciting Omar Khayyam to myself:

Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend,
........

© Al Jazeera


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