“Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day?”
I was sitting on my sofa in my living room enjoying a cup of coffee and reading The Queen of the Damned on the morning of September 11, 2001. I remember it clearly. The Queen of the Damned was the first book in my life that I read until I was too tired to focus and then picked up off of the floor and carried to the living room when I got up in the morning to start reading again. It was a good book. I was so into it that I couldn’t wait for the opportunity to read it. As for the coffee, I like a dark roast with French vanilla creamer.
So there I was, sitting on the left side of the sofa leaning on the arm, coffee on the side table, book in hand when my cell phone rang.
It was my sister calling. It was early, but not too early. I answered with a normal hello and waited for a response. She asked me if I was okay, with a sense of urgency and need for an affirmative response. I’m sure I made a confused face as I answered “yeah, why?”
She asked me if I knew what was going on. I said no. She told me about the planes crashing into the World Trade Center. In disbelief I turned on NY1. I couldn’t believe it. I was stunned, as the rest of the world was stunned. Even crazier was the fact that I was in NYC; a resident blissfully unaware of the tragedy of terrorism happening mere miles down the street.
I couldn’t sit at home. I had to get out of the house. It was too claustrophobic to sit and watch the smoke billow from the towers and wonder what was going to happen, to wait for what might happen. I went to the gym. I had no intention of watching television, but I tuned my Walkman to the frequency of the television that hung above my treadmill and power walked while I watched the smoke billow from the towers and waited. I was on that treadmill when the first tower fell. It was sickening. I remember the lurch in my stomach. I had to hold on to the side of the machine and fairly quickly had to stop it and step off. I walked away, but was determined to not go home. I tried to use a triceps weight machine. It didn’t work. I couldn’t concentrate. I had to go home. I don’t know what I wanted, but I couldn’t be at the gym. If that sounds confusing to read, it was just as confusing as life that day.
When I returned home I found my roommate, with his co-worker, sitting on the sofa glued to the television. I sat with the two of them until the second tower fell. Devastation – sickening and perverse. I felt as if I was going to come unglued. I watched the same reports over and over for hours until I finally had to leave the apartment. I walked into Times Squares. I thought I would occupy my mind with a trip to Virgin Megastore. It was closed. Times Square wasn’t exactly a ghost town, but it was different, eerie.
May 1 2011, I was sitting on a sofa in Astoria when my friend Tynan turned on her computer and got a message from someone who told her to turn on CNN. She relayed the message to us with no explanation as to why. We couldn’t find CNN. Finally, Andrew told us what channel he thought it was. Simultaneously, Tynan spoke the words that the President was going to announce that Osama Bin Laden was dead.
I couldn’t’ believe it. I sent a text to my cousins, Whit and Casey and my friend, Susan. I called my parents and told them to turn on CNN.
I sat in the living room of my friend, Michael with our friends, Tynan, Sarah, Andrew, Scott, Emily and Ken and watched the correspondents talk about: firstly, being told to come into work with no explanation as to why; secondly, changing their lack of why to speculating on what the President was going to say; to thirdly, telling us that Osama Bin Laden was dead.
Social media was slamming. Facebook statuses were proclaiming Osama’s death. Twitter feeds were proclaiming Osama’s death. The correspondents began to talk of him as dead rather than allegedly dead.
Was this really happening? Could the mastermind behind the worst terrorist attack on the United States in history actually be dead? What would it all mean for us as a country?
For nearly an hour we listened to reporters and correspondents on television, read our twitter feeds and laughed at Osamacentric facebook statuses while we waited for our President to appear on screen and tell us what had happened. When President Barack Obama finally walked down the red carpet covered hallway in the east room to stand at the podium, a hush fell over the room. We listened as he told us that Osama Bin Laden was dead and that the body was in United States possession.
It is indeed an historic moment.
How are we to feel about the death though? Is it better that he is dead than a prisoner? Probably. If we had brought him to trial would we have put him to death like Sadam Hussein anyway? Probably. He was a cruel, sadistic human being, but a human being nonetheless. I know, I know, he was in charge of all the 9/11 deaths. I’m not saying he shouldn’t have been killed; I’m just trying to reconcile my feelings. There is a sense of relief that he is no longer drawing breath in our world. There’s also the forehead-wrinkling sense of happiness in his death. That kind of sounds like confusion to me. Should I been reveling in the fact that he was killed? Or just feel that sense of relief that maybe his death will weaken al Qaeda? Truth be told, I’m afraid of what his death might mean. I’m afraid that his militant followers will be angry retaliates. It’s a struggle.
The reflection I am faced with at this moment is that I was sitting on the left side of a sofa when Osama Bin Laden’s evil plot hit its target on September 11, 2001, and I was sitting on the left side of a sofa when knowledge that Osama Bin Laden, himself, had become the target nearly 10 years later.
This was not the day the world stop turning, but it was the day that the world signed a sigh of relief.