On 10th night, 19 years ago 246 people went to sleep in preparation for their morning flights. 2,606 people went to sleep in preparation for work in the morning. 343 firefighters went to sleep in preparation for their morning shift. 60 police officers went to sleep in preparation for morning patrol duties.
8 paramedics went to sleep in preparation for the morning shift of saving lives. None of them saw past 10:00 am on Sept 11, 2001 in New York. In one single moment life was never the same again for many US families mainly in New York. It changed the concept of security and safety the world over.
On this night, 19 years ago I went to bed early to sleep at 9.30 pm right after my early dinner and small stroll in my lawn along with my wife. I had to get up at 4.00 am and my office driver was instructed to pick me up at 4.45 am and drop me at the airport as I had a meeting with Maharashtra State Chief Secretary for merging of Mahanet and NICNet, such that they get synergy as per the state government letter, but I knew it would be trouble for my organisation.
My boss was also travelling to Bombay as Mumbai was called by that name and join me at 3.45 pm meeting at the Mantralaya. Our return flight was at 7.00 pm. We reached back to the Mumbai airport and I accompanied my boss in the Air India business lounge for a coffee at 6.15 pm. Just minutes into watching CNN news, live telecast of the horrid scene was on the giant screen, which started at 6.41 pm.
There was disbelief, shock and anger in the who’s who of the corporate world sipping coffee in the lounge. Dense pile of smoke engulfed the twin towers and people could be seen jumping out of windows amid loud shrieks and annoyance that the terrorists have hit the ‘most visible power’ of the US. In fact the terrorists wanted to strike the NY stock exchange but later changed the destination and hit the twin towers.
My nerves were shaken on that day and they do even now today. I could not sleep on that day and when I came home around 9.20 pm the discussions were going on and towers had crumbled due to excessive heat generated due to fire and impact of Boeing hitting the mid-way in both towers at full throttle speed. In the year 2002 I went to New York, enroute Colombia and saw the remains of the massive towers. I was in grief as I had lost my classmate from UBC, who was working there.
In the aftermath of the attacks, many US citizens held the view that the attacks had “changed the world forever.” The Bush administration announced a war on terrorism, with the goal of bringing Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda to justice and preventing the emergence of other terrorist networks all over the world.
These goals would be accomplished by means including economic and military sanctions against states perceived as harbouring terrorists and increasing global surveillance and intelligence sharing. Immediately after the September 11 attacks, CIA and FBI officials speculated on possible involvement by Saddam Hussein.
Because the attacks on the US were judged to be within the parameters of its charter, NATO declared that Article 5 of the NATO agreement was satisfied on September 12, 2001, making the US war on terrorism the first time since its inception that NATO would actually participate in a “hot” war.
Immediately after opening the hunt on Osama bin Laden, President Bush also visited the Islamic Center of Washington and asked the public to view Arabs and Muslims living in the United States as American patriots. But the anger of the Americans was palpable.
Congress passed and President Bush signed the Homeland Security Act of 2002, creating the Department of Homeland Security, representing the largest restructuring of the US Government in contemporary history. Congress passed the USA PATRIOT Act, stating that it would help detect and prosecute terrorism and other crimes. Civil liberties groups had criticised the PATRIOT Act, saying that it allows law enforcement to invade the privacy of citizens and eliminates judicial oversight of the law-enforcement and domestic intelligence gathering.
The Bush Administration also invoked 9/11 as the reason to have the National Security Agency initiate a secret operation, “to eavesdrop on telephone and e-mail communications between the United States and people overseas without a warrant.”
The war on the terrorism started. India used to complain to the world leaders about the Muslim and Jihad terrorism, but it fell on deaf ears to Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland and many liberal nations and now they have seen the rise of Muslim population, their terror and Islamization of the society.
My another classmate sent me an email on the same day, whose office was just across the WTC, who watched the big collision and collapse of the trade centre and sent me the following email.
“Sent: Tuesday, September 11, 2001 2:17:22 PM
Subject: Hello There!
All our near and Dear ones, Thank you very much for your concerns and calls. By the grace of Almighty God and your well wishes I am safe and sound. Let me share with you the tragic moments right from my office window.
As you know that I am at my desk around 7:30 am in the morning. It started as a beautiful sunny day. I had started my computer and was still in the middle of work and occasionally checking my emails from work and personal mail. The back side of my office is all glass and I have the most spectacular view of the world famous Manhattan skyline with the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers in full view in the financial district.
This is exactly the view shown on the TV. The only thing that separates this view from my office is the Hudson River in between. I was working away and a colleague stopped by and asked me to turn back and check the smoke coming out from one of the big buildings.
We were alarmed and someone yelled that a plane has hit the tower; we all became very nervous and in a few minutes while we were watching a big commercial plane crashed into the second tall building right in front of our eyes in the broad daylight. At that moment it became very clear to all of us that something terrible was happening and a daring sabotage was taking place in front of us.
It was a very sad and tragic scene and while we were watching in horror and wondering about the lost lives, one the tall building started collapsing right in front of our eyes and dark smoky dust clouds started engulfing the surroundings. We are only 1 to 1.5 miles away from the actual scene with the river in between. There were orders to evacuate the buildings and we somehow managed to cross streets and walked to a nearby train station and kept hoping from one train to other.
A friend of ours drove from a different station to our train station, we then drove home. We were extremely sad wondering about the helpless victims who perished for no reason leaving behind innocent your children and wives.
Words cannot do justice to the magnitude of this tragedy. It is a very tragic and sad day as thousands of innocent lives have been lost. This is such a terrible act. We are lucky to have survived but our heart and soul go out for those who didn’t survive. Nobody could have done anything to prevent this evil act as the terrorists were bent of their suicidal mission. This indeed was a cowardly act and we pray that justice be served soon.
Let’s hope that America and rest of the world recovers from this tragedy but things are going to be very difficult to cope within the next few days, weeks and months
Thank you very much for your concerns. We will be in constant touch.
Warm regards and once again, thank you very much for your concerns. God bless you all.
Yours affectionately, Ram” –
My friend’s email touched my heart. Not only US but the whole world was never the same again. US crisscrossed the entire Middle East and searched, scurried and bombed and droned Afghanistan but they never doubted the integrity of Pakistan, where the terror king Osama bin Laden was found in a non-descript house few hundred metres from the Pakistan Cant.
As you live and enjoy the breaths you take today and tonight before you go to sleep in preparation for your life tomorrow, kiss the ones you love, snuggle a little tighter, and never take one second of your life for granted. Every year exactly at 6.41 I mourn the death of the victims of the WTC tragedy and a drop of tear come in my moist eyes.