Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Lest we forget

Some people may think that the Americans being over-sentimental and over-dramatic make too big a deal about their tragedies. When I was in Epcot on December 7, the family wondered if some important American had died and that was why the flags were flown at half mast. I said it wasn't and it was to commemorate Pearl Harbour. The reaction to that was a great amount of eye-rolling about how the Americans were over-dramatic.


But at the same time, I was very awed to see the flag flown at half mast. My mother was born on December 7 she was 2 that day. It was helluva 2nd birthday in Singapore because it also heralded the attack on Singapore.

I felt the same way when I was at the 9 11 Memorial.

I remember the cold autumn night when I was watching television and the news cut in to announce that a plane had flown into one of the World Trade Centre towers. The television show I was watching was cut short and for the rest of the night, we watched the news not knowing that we were watching what would be a defining moment in the world and our lives.

No immediate friends or family died. But we had had visiting faculty from the USA who had returned to the USA and one of them, together with her daughter was on the flight that hit the South Tower. No one could work the next day and television only resumed a semblance of normal programming the next evening.

It's been more than a decade on. And the horror that I felt that night, actually wondering whether the world would go to war and Packrat would be called back from reserves and whether we would actually have a Singapore to return to at year end as well as more comically, if war was declared, would I have to finish my dissertations?

There were many things that moved me about the 911 Memorial.

1. How big the memorial pools were. The memorial pools are in the exact footprints of where the towers were. And it made me think about how large the craters were on that day and how many people died and how much rubble and debris had filled the craters that size.

2. Every single victim was named. And some of them had, after their names who they were; the first responder policemen or firefighters who did not know that they were running into buildings that were about to collapse.

3. The thoughtfulness that went behind the memorial. Yes, light shoots out from the second crater in the fountain every night as an example of an electric eternal flame of sorts but what touched me was how every single name was hollowed out so that family members or the public who want to honour the dead by placing flowers could do so by placing the flowers in their names.


4. The new Freedom Towers are still being built. National memory and the economy are tightly interlinked.

5. There were two thousand over people who perished that day and 7 buildings collapsed not counting those who died elsewhere that day. The debris and the toxic gases remained over New York for months after. Amidst of that debris, a tree was found. And that tree was then taken to a botany clinic and actually revived. It now stands proudly in the middle of the 911 memorial and is known as the Survivor Tree.

I remarked to my brother that as a mark of respect and honour that the memorial should actually be closed on 911 itself so that families could visit it without the gawking eyes of visitors and onlookers. 

It is hard not to be overawed. But it is also easy to forget tragedy. When I was there, I remembered, it was September 11 2001 that I had decided that I needed to become a teacher. I had forgotten that, and much much more.
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  1. it's hard to believe that so many years have passed since that day.. but the memories still live strong and I think should not be forgotten even for years to come. thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

    Ai @ Sakura Haruka