I asked the young Russian woman who was my translator whether they were saying anything about Ahmad Shah Massoud’s health after the explosion. She listened and said: “Some say he is still alive. Americans say he is dead.”
In the afternoon, as we were driving back into the city, I asked her again if there was any news about Ahmad Shah Massoud. She listened and said: “No news about Shah Massoud. But they say an airplane ran into the World Trade Center in New York.” I didn’t believe her. She had made some mistakes with her English earlier that week, and I was sure she didn’t know what she was talking about. She was quiet and I kept quiet, too.
The news broadcast continued on the car radio. Several minutes later she said: “Looks like another airplane hit the other World Trade Center Tower.” By this time I was sure she not only had poor English, that she was also really stupid, as she had no idea how big and tall those towers were and how airplanes worked. I had a hard time keeping a straight face, thinking that I will be cracking jokes about this woman’s translation skills for years to come.
When I got out of the car and walked into the lobby of my hotel, I saw many people huddled around the TV set in the lobby. From their expressions, their collective silence, and their body language, I could tell something ominous had happened. I ran to the elevator and went to my room where I saw it on TV.
Later that evening we went for a walk near Kremlin and Red Square. Though everyone seemed aware that summer was over, the night air didn’t feel terribly cold. We sat there in silence, watching others walk by us also in silence. Many people had ashen faces and several people were crying. We had ashen faces and we were crying, too.
We knew many people had died, but the numbers, or scope of the tragedy were not known to us at the time. I just knew that early in the morning of a weekday, someone who had bought a cappuccino at Starbucks downstairs and was sipping it, quite possibly looking across the pictures of his wife and kids on his desk, or pictures of her daughter’s graduation and her son’s Little League pose, saw the horrible sight of an airplane approaching his or her window.
The world changed on September 11, 2001, forever. Today I continue to cry for the victims of September 11, 2001 through September 11, 2007. As the world continues to burn in blazing fires of mistrust and hate, I remember the morning of September 11, 2001 in Moscow as quite possibly the last day I woke up to my world as I knew it.