Remembering 9/11 from Australia

This Saturday marks the 20th Anniversary of the September 11 Terrorist Attacks. Leanne Elliott shares her memories of that tragic day which changed our world forever. 

It was almost 20 years ago; I was heavily pregnant with only a few weeks to go before having my first bubs. I was woken in the early hours of the morning by my partner who had a sense of nervous excitement in his voice.

“They’re attacking America,” he said as he tried to stir me.

Still half asleep I replied “Who?”

He responded, “I don’t know, but it’s all over the news,” as he rushed back out to the loungeroom. I went back to sleep thinking he had gotten it wrong, or I had heard wrong.

No one would be crazy enough to attack America…right?

World Trade Center One. Photo by Vlada Karpovich from Pexels.

Soon after he woke me again as he was leaving for work. He kept saying over and over, “you need to see it, someone’s attacking America.” He gave me a kiss and rushed out the door, late for work.

I laid there debating whether to go back to sleep, but after laying there for a while I decided to start my day, there was still a lot to do before the little one arrived.

The television was still on when I walked into the loungeroom. I remember looking at the busy screen. Banners running across the bottom, news readers speaking with an odd urgency and video footage of two different airliners hitting the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre in New York.

It took a few minutes to really register what I was seeing. Someone was attacking America.

I sat down; my eyes glued to the screen. The images I saw that day are still so raw in my mind, almost like it was only yesterday.

Black smoke spewing from both towers, the faces of people disorientated and full of fear, broken bodies being carried out and the panicked voices and cries of people scrambling to get to safety.

And the people in the building. Those poor trapped souls.

Images showed so many of them, waving from the windows, desperate to get out. So desperate that despite being so high up hundreds chose to jump. I remember thinking how terrified they must have felt to make such a decision.

New images then emerged of the Pentagon. News readers told viewers an airliner had also just hit the Pentagon, the images showing smoke billowing from the iconic building and people on the lawn rushing into action.

I could not bear to watch, but at the same time, I could not look away.

Then, my heart stopped beating as the screen flicked to images of the South tower at the World Trade Center collapsing, as though it was disintegrating before my eyes, the carnage disappearing into a cloud of dust.

Monochrome Photo Of Twin Towers During Daytime. Photo by Thomas Svensson from Pexels.

Before I could process what I had just seen images of the North tower collapsing were plastered across the screen. I remember hearing the people on the streets below screaming as they ran for their lives, then the screams also disappeared into an immense cloud of dust.

How many people were still inside those buildings?

I remember just sitting there, crying, in shock and total disbelief.

Shortly after there were reports coming in that an airliner had crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. Information on what had happened on board and why it had crashed was still unclear.

The whole day was a bit of a blur. There were lots of phone calls to family to see if they knew anything more, lots of pacing back and forth from the television screen, lots of just standing there feeling numb or crying.

In the afternoon my partner arrived home from work. Just moments after we heard World Trade Center 7 had also just collapsed, luckily there were no fatalities.

We both just sat there in the loungeroom, quietly, not knowing what to say. There were no words to describe how helpless, vulnerable, mortal, and afraid we were feeling, nor to describe the anguish we felt for the victims, their families and the whole of America.

I went to bed that night emotionally exhausted and wondering what kind of world my baby was being born into.

Photo by Lars Mulder from Pexels.

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