Sunday, September 11, 2011


On this day 10 years ago, I was essentially a newcomer in Australia having arrived just six weeks prior to do postgraduate studies. 11 September is a day that requires no year. Almost everybody could remember what they did that day or what they were doing when they first heard of the life-changing events the following morning as was the case for most of us Down Under. Australia is 14 hours ahead the local time in New York. Thus, news of the overwhelming events that unfolded during the saddest and worst day in American history came close to 11.00 that evening. Most Australians would have been already fast asleep.

My sister in Manila, Philippines sent a text message telling me to quickly look at CNN - that something terrible was happening to some buildings in New York and she added that events were eerily reminiscent of Tom Clancy's Debt of Honor (we're both fans of Tom Clancy books, particularly the Jack Ryan series).

I caught some of the coverage of the events on CNN and BBC that night but didn't fully grasp and understood the enormity of the tragedy until I watched the TV coverage and scoured the printed and online news the following day.

Today, going over news and coverage of the 10th anniversary, the numbers associated with 9/11 seem to be highlighted more and best describe, in hindsight, the immensity of its impact - to name some:

93 Nationalities of victims;
2.3 Magnitude, on the Richter scale, of the seismic impact of the north tower's (WTC 1) collapse;
7 days passed before the city's EPA administrator, said the air in New York was "safe to breathe";
261 days passed before the last piece of steel was carted away.

But what does September 11 mean? The events that day affected scores of people and in so many ways that its meaning will likewise be as diverse.

I think this reply is one which I found rather poignant thus far. It's from 15-year old Sasha Vaccaro* who was in a kindergarten four blocks from the World Trade Centre that day. He recalled that his father carried him away as the second plane struck the south tower. He saw both buildings aflame and along with his father, he cried. When asked what 9/11 means, he said ..."I honestly don't know. I can't understand why people would do that. I don't know what to say. It's just sadness. That's all it will ever be. Lots and lots of sadness".

*The New York Times 9/11: The Reckoning Article - Getting Here from There, N.R. Kleinfield (Published 08 September 2011).

However, the aftermath of the tragedy gave rise to many stories of heroic efforts. Ten years hence, among those stories I find moving are the recollections about the over 300 search and rescue dogs who helped in the effort to find victims.

"What a dog could do with its nose was invaluable in the search. What a dog could do with its heart was equally invaluable."

Most of these canine heroes have passed away. Fifteen of them, however, are featured in Charlotte Dumas' book Retrieved (2011).

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