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What stuck with you on 9/11?

20 years ago, I was 14 and living in a medium-sized town in Southern Germany. It was sometime in the afternoon, I had returned from school and snuck up to my parents’ room to secretly watch TV, as I tended to when I was home alone.

Instead of the anticipated afternoon program, almost all channels where covering the live events in New York. And even though I did not fully comprehend, what was going on, I was glued to the small TV set in shock.

I remember the newscasters trying to explain the unfolding situation, but it all seemed surreal. The concept of terrorists or a terrorist attack were so foreign to me, let alone on that scale.

Up to that point, in my limited youthful consciousness, natural and human disasters were something that happened far away and in regions unrelated to my little world. And even though New York was far away on the map as well, that day it felt very close to home.

I don’t remember how my consequent conversation with my parents went, but I remember the next day in school. My classroom was buzzing with questions and speculations. We did not understand the first thing about politics or international relations, but we were all shaken and afraid of the unknown to come. Somebody brought up the possibility of war. Someone considered the possibility of nuclear retaliation. Some became afraid of World War III. One girl started crying. Together with one of our teachers, we had a minute of silence for the victims.

We did not know what was going to happen, but it felt like the world had shifted. Like it had been on a steady path and suddenly been shaken to the core. And still it was hard to properly assess how much that day would readjust the world.


7 thoughts on “What stuck with you on 9/11?

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  1. I was 25 and getting ready to start a job working for the federal government – here in the U.S. I was getting ready to go out for the day and watched coverage – assuming at first it was a terrible accident. And then I watched live as the second tower was hit and knew of course something was terribly wrong. I had to wait to start my new job until they’d worked through new safety protocols and background check requirements. I will never forget that day, what it felt like to see a country we had convinced ourselves was impenetrable – take such a blow. And then of course what followed was 20 years of war and trauma for service members and their families. That day changed the course of my life as it did for many.

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  2. I was sitting at my desk in my office in England when my Mum called and tried to explain what had happened. She was so shocked she found it hard to articulate the detail. Since then the world has spent 20 years in defence mode. I wonder where we’d be today if we’d fought fire with fire.


      1. Well, the western world has for the most part done an excellent job of protecting its people against attack and has thwarted many further terrorist plans. But “we” have never attacked, never bombed, never taken a matching aggressive stance. Such a stance may well have left us in a far worse place than we are, of course, but it may also have brought matters to some sort of conclusion by showing that terrorists won’t win in the end. I don’t know the answer, nor am I arguing one against the other…just wondering where we’d be. 20 years is a large chunk of history for nothing much to change as a consequence of such a terrible act as 9/11.


      2. Thank you for clarifying. I get your point and also wonder what if. It’s hard to know how things would have developed if other decisions would have been made. I had the impression that the western world did attempt to fight terrorists by going into Afghanistan and having different missions targeting them. It’s a difficult battle though, and open for interpretation whether it was successful.

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