Tied up to the tragic events that unfolded on September 11
By Nastaran Sinai
September 18, 2001
On Thursday August 23, 2001, news headlines screamed of the stunt performed
by French daredevil Thierry Devaux who, with the help of a motorized fan
and an orange parachute, tried to land on the Statue of Liberty, undoubtedly
America's most famous symbol. That is, until September 11, 2001, less than
a month later, when another assault on an American landmark, also arriving
by air, crowned the twin towers of the World Trade Center with this now
I think back to that time in the summer, when Michael and I watched the
pink-suited Frenchman's ridiculous stunt on TV, which resulted, fortunately,
in no injuries to himself or the rescue workers who plucked him from Lady
liberty's Torch. Yet it grabbed the headlines of every newspaper, TV, and
radio show for days. The mood of those reports was generally merry and tongue-in-cheek,
as the reporters and the general population smiled and laughed at this strange
man who appeared out of nowhere (actually, he took off from Bayonne, New
Jersey) to end up dangling from Ellis Island's most famous resident for
his fifteen minutes of fame.
The hilarity of the usually jaded New York City residents persisted,
even in the face of Mayor Giuliani's grumpy chiding of the unlucky stuntman,
for putting the lives of his rescue helpers unnecessarily at risk. If only
he knew of the terrible event that was to fall on his rescue helpers in
less than a month, would he have been more indulgent?...
Today, a week after the city of New York was brought down to its knees
by two planes piloted by soul-less killing machines (I can't qualify them
even with the term of "human being"), I look back on those last
days of the summer and tears fill my eyes at the innocence we have all lost,
in this city, in this country, in this world.
The silly apparition from the flying Frenchman dropping from the sky
onto America's foremost landmark now seems like a grim forewarning of the
horrors to come, also by air, also, seemingly, out of nowhere. My heart
drops at the thought of those rescue workers from the Fire Department of
New York and the Port Authorities who pulled Mr. Deveaux from the top of
the Statue of Liberty. Where are they now? Are they caught under tons of
concrete and steel rubble? Or are they digging their way in there trying
to rescue their comrades?
On the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001, the piercing shrieks of
the phone pleaded with the two sleeping residents of a cozy apartment in
upstate New York to abandon their peaceful slumber. Michael got up before
me ( He is such a light sleeper) and answered the phone's plea. It was his
sister-in-law. The first thing she asked him was if we were "okay".
Still groggy, he answered: "Yeah... sure... Why shouldn't we be?"
It was then that she broke the news to him.
At that time, the second plane had just perforated the top of the second
tower, but the WTC was still standing. When I heard him say, repeatedly,
"Oh my God," I opened my eyes in turn. He hung up the receiver
and, in a disbelieving tone, relayed the news to me. We immediately turned
on the TV and that is when the horror hit us. It had begun much earlier
for those people trapped in that inferno.
The images on the TV did not make any sense. I stood there frozen, I
couldn't even sit on the couch. I couldn't make sense of those blazing images
and I kept picturing that night, at the beginning of summer, when we celebrated
our school graduation at Windows on the World. The beautiful view of the
City from the top of that high-rise. The vast shopping mall I explored time
and time again in the basement level of the WTC. The endless walks on sunny
mornings and rainy afternoons along the Hudson, down from Tribeca into the
Financial District, circling the twin towers again and again, each time
with a different person, usually a visitor being guided through all the
After the first tower collapsed, my first instinct was to grab the phone.
But it wasn't working. Panicked at the thought of my parents watching the
same images far away in a different country and thinking the worst, as they
are apt to do, I hurried out of the apartment looking for a payphone, anything
that would work. After an endless amount of time running in and out of stores,
up and down the streets of our small town, where every person I passed by
had the tragedy on their lips, I finally made a connection. My father answered
with an already worried voice, and he did not seem much relieved at hearing
me. We talked shortly, and it was on my way home that I found out, from
a passer-by, that the second tower had collapsed.
From then on, our phone worked intermittently. When it did work, it was
ringing off the hook, with all our friends and relatives calling us with
the same worried tone as my father. We spent that whole day alternatively
on the phone, glued to the TV, or packing... Oh yeah, packing, of all things...
Michael reports to his military fort on today. In fact, he has left on the
long drive. What does the future hold for him, for us? It is all now tied
up to the tragic events that unfolded on September 11, 2001. What seemed
like a routine job now takes on terrible connotations for me. What a time
to join the army, I worry selfishly, at the same time that I am proud of
him for what he is doing. Every day, George Bush's words become more charged,
and the talk of war more "real".
As I sit and watch the distraught faces on TV of family and friends looking
for their loved ones, those most wretched of victims among all of us (for
we are all victims of these acts of terrorism), I shudder to think when
my turn will come to not only empathize with them but join their ranks...
If a Third World War is about to erupt, as many are predicting, some
with eagerness, how long before I too walk the deserted desolate streets
once so familiar and innocent, clutching a faded, wrinkled picture of a
most cherished friend or relative, hoping like they hope today that life
can somehow emerge from those merciless ashes.