Memories of 9/11 – Twenty Years Later

I’m sitting here thinking back on twenty years ago today. I’m sure I’m not the only person to feel strange that twenty years have passed. On the other hand, there will be adults today who weren’t even born then. That feels just as strange.

I was at home, at my house in Hounanchou, where I lived before moving to Shinkoiwa in 2007. It was evening, and I was tired and getting ready to go to sleep. I was in the living room. Tao was sleeping on the floor. The TV was off. A friend at that time, Murao-san, was visiting and was upstairs on my computer.

He called down for me to turn on the TV. This was after the first tower was hit, and before people really knew what was happening.

My sleepiness vanished. The 2nd tower was hit and it was obvious there was an attack. While trying to follow the news, I went upstairs to my computer and tried to access the CNN site. It took a long time to come up, and it was chilling to see the bare bones page there.

It was still early in the morning across the U.S., and nobody really knew the extent of what was happening, how many cities would be hit. I called and woke up my parents in Columbia, MO and told them to watch the news. They were shocked. I phoned my former boss in San Francisco, waking him up, and suggesting he may want to leave the city. After all, nobody knew.

I feel teary-eyed even now as I think of the horrifying images of people leaping from the top of the World Trade Center to escape the inferno behind them.

I remember sending an email to the State Department offering my services in any intelligence operations they may need. I never got a reply, but that’s how I was feeling then about what happened. If there was anything I could do…

We all know how things changed after that. The tight security at airports. Before 9/11 security was so loose I could travel with a Swiss Army knife and all they would do was take it out of my pocket, put it in my backpack and request I not take it out of the backpack during the flight.

And then endless wars. Wars that are perhaps just ending now. Memories of Buddhist priests outside train stations beating drums softly, protesting against war.

9/11. New York. The Pentagon. United 93 crashing in Pennsylvania. The skies being cleared of all air traffic. Friends and colleagues who were on flights letting me know where they were stranded. The air traffic controllers chilling radio communications. The last messages from passengers on the flights reaching out to loved ones. Friends in New York contacting me to let me know they were ok. A cousin who was on his way to a meeting at the WTC letting me know he missed it. Endless circles and mazes of events that linger in our memories to this day, as I sit here at home on 9/11/2021 thinking about it.

Hoping for a peaceful world and a better future for all.

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