At first, I did not even recognize my own city. Part of it had to do, I think, with the angle they were showing, you could only see one of the towers when they were showing the second plane hit the other tower. The other reason that I did not recognize NY was the fact that I couldn't believe something like that could happen in America, much less New York. Once I noticed that cars were facing forward on the right hand side of the streets, I realized that it was the States, something my housemates tried to talk me out of. We went online and once I saw that the UN and the White House had been evacuated, I began to panic. The next thing I read sent me into full panic, Fire! The World Trade Center is on Fire.
I immediately grabbed my cell phone and calling card and frantically dialed my home number in an attempt to contact my family. When I couldn't get through, I ran to the nearest phone box and used AT&T, only to hear that, "All circuits are currently busy." In full panic now, I ran back up to my apartment and looked to see who was signed online who could contact my family.
Luckily and with the help of many friends, thanks all of you, I was able to reach them and determine that everyone was indeed safe and accounted for. From that point on, my attention was focused on the television. There was no bilingual news on so we had to settle for half understanding the Japanese newscasts. Over and over again, there was the footage of one tower burning while the plane slammed into the second tower. I was numb at first, it didn't seem real. The footage here in Japan didn't show that the buildings had collapsed, so I didn't know that until later when I chatted with my brother and he told me that the Twin Towers were gone.
GONE? No, it couldn't be. I refused to truly believe it until the Japanese footage caught up and I saw with my own eyes the hole where two buildings that were New York used to be. Later that night I spoke with my father and told him that I thought of the pictures as looking at a War Zone and he told me that we may be looking at the first battle of World War III.
While chatting with a friend online that evening I was asked if it was wrong to think that detonating an atom bomb in the middle east was a bad idea, and I will admit that my first reaction was no, that's not a bad idea at all, but more about that later. I stay glued to the TV until about 3 AM here, (2 PM in New York) watching alternating footage of the plane hitting the tower and a group of Palestinians celebrating on the streets. Seeing that footage went a long way toward keeping my anger WAY up. Sometime after three, I gave up and went to bed as I realized there would be no news on Japanese television. Note, I said went to bed because I definitely didn't get much sleep that night.
My housemate woke me shortly before 9 AM asking if I wanted to hear the latest. Thus began a long day of nearly non-stop television watching of the crashes. It was very difficult to watch all the coverage but by far the saddest was the photo with the Statue of Liberty in the foreground with the Towers burning in the background. That evening, I was due to work more overtime. I live in a neighborhood called Osaka Business Park, not that different from the Wall Street area, and between my apartment and the train station lay Osaka's Twin Towers.
When I looked up at those buildings, it all began to hit me. Those Towers were the NY Skyline, something that welcomed us all home as we landed at the New York Airports. I will never see the Towers again. Yes, they may rebuild, but it's not the same. At work I was greeted by friends who, knowing that I live very close to the city, asked immediately if I had been able to reach my family. I taught four lessons that night and in each, students expressed their anger, sadness, shock, and many other emotions. I planned to go to bed early that night but it did not happen, as I could not sleep. I could not help fearing that when the first light hit the NY sky that the attacks would start anew.
The next morning was an Early Early for me, meaning my day starts at 7:30. I got to work to find a friend had picked up a copy of one of the English newspapers for me. Reading what they had to say about the attacks proved to be interesting as they referred to them as the second worst attacks ever on American soil but never mentioned the first one. Before anyone criticizes Japan for this, please read my story about a student** recounting her most vivid memory.
As the day progressed my thoughts strayed further from those of anger to those of sadness. I feel not only for those who have lost someone in the explosions but also all Americans. It was such a tragedy for so many innocent lives to end so tragically. These thoughts were what made me think about thoughts of retaliatory bombing. As many of you know, I don't believe in war and I hate the idea that America is the World's Policeman. I am not saying that those responsible do not deserve to be punished because they do. However, it is they who need to be punished, not innocent citizens who just happen to live in the same country.
On one hand, I say there must be another way to prevent such a horrendous event from happening, but on the other I think back on the World Trade Center bombing of 1993, the bombing of the American Embassies in Africa in 1998, and the attack on the Cole in the Gulf last fall and realize that short of taking out Bin Laden and his cronies, there is no way to stop these attacks on Americans.
The prospect of another World War terrifies me, and it looks as if this is the direction in which we're heading based on NATO's decision to treat the attack on New York as an attack on all the member states. Yes, we need a unified stance against such acts of terror, but I don't think we need World War III. The world's weapon's capabilities means only that a war now would be more devastating than any that we have seen before, with more casualties.
Besides, who would it be a war against? Afghanistan is where Bin Laden appears to live yet early reports indicate that some of the men carried passports from the United Arab Emirates. Some of the men entered the States via the Canadian border; do we declare war on the Canadians for allowing terrorists to pass into the States? Perhaps more frightening is the fact that some of the hijackers trained in Florida at a flight school and the fact that somehow they got by security at Massachusetts' Logan Airport. Do New York and Washington DC declare war on Florida and Massachusetts for not being able to prevent the acts of terrorism?
Right now there are more questions than answers, and until there are answers at least, declaring war is not the answer, as "War doesn't decide who's right, only who's left." Yes, an unthinkable tragedy happened, like none other ever seen on American soil, there is no question about that, but that doesn't mean that killing more innocent people is the answer.
**In a lesson I taught during the week of September 3, 2001, I asked the students to share their most vivid memory. The students knew full well that I am American. One student spoke of an explosion that rocked and destroyed her city when she was about 20. She's from Hiroshima and is 75 years old, you do the math. Return to Reflections