Ten years ago I was starting my second year of university.
I was standing in line with a friend at the school’s head office, because she needed forms signed so she could get her student loan. A guy in line with us said,
“Hey, did you hear? Some guy bombed the Pentagon and flew a plane into the World Trade Centre.”
“Someone BOMBED the PENTAGON?” I repeated with amusement. Everyone knows the Pentagon is a fortress. I imagined a pipe bomb going “poof!” on an impenetrable roof.
“And flew a plane into the World Trade Centre.”
My mind’s eye provided an image of a tiny Cessna’s tail sticking out a 20th story window while inside people stood around the water cooler and gaped at the plane laying on Bob from Accounting’s desk.
“That’s funny! Was anyone else hurt?”
“I don’t know.”
“If not, that’s hilarious,” I said blithely, shaking my head at the random crazies of the world.
When we got back to residence, I passed someone’s open door. A bunch of girls were inside, standing around the TV.
“Is that the bombing?” I asked, walking in. People nodded, not looking away.
I looked at the screen, just in time to see the first Tower disintegrate into a cloud of ash.
Ten minutes later, I was upstairs with my own TV blaring as it replayed the images of passenger jets exploding into New York City landmarks, and those same landmarks crumbling like a house of cards.
The phone in my parents’ house rang.
“Mum, are you watching this?” I asked.
“Watching… no, what?”
My parents never turn on the TV before dinner time.
“Turn on the TV.”
“Just do it.” I was living proof that mere words alone could not convey the gravity of what I was seeing on CNN.
“What channel?” my mother asked irritably.
“I… don’t think it matters.”
My parents’ TV is usually set to CBC. It only took seconds.
“Oh my God,” my mother said in horror.
“This means war, Carol. You don’t understand. This will be WAR.”
“I KNOW THAT.”
You don’t need to be over age 20 to understand that when someone attacks Americans on American soil, that the Americans will respond by killing anyone even remotely connected to those responsible.
Sure, this was done by terrorists, not a government, but would that matter? The U.S. would BLAME a government, just so they could retaliate.
Canada has a delicate relationship with America. We’re like an embarrassed and less successful younger brother, who watches his brash, loud, popular sibling get all the credit… and all the blame. We trail behind him as he blusters along, while we cast sympathetic glances and go, “Sorry about him… he’s a good guy, really…”
Canada was founded by people who didn’t want to pick a fight with England, but didn’t want to be English, either. We define ourselves by the fact that we are NOT American, but we aren’t British either. We’re the go-between, the child in the middle.
But when the U.S. or Britain get into a fight, we expect to join in, because however we may disagree with what they do… we’re family.
And we did.
We didn’t go to Iraq. Even Canada put its foot down there. Our Prime Minister didn’t see what Iraq had to do with anything, and felt that the U.N.’s disapproval wasn’t worth risking. But we did go to Afghanistan.
We’re still there. My friend’s husband is in Afghanistan right now, where we’re still trying to clear up the mess enough to be able to leave.
Ten years later.
I have a science degree, and a diploma in animal health technology. I am married. I have a one year old child.
All in the span of ten years.
But the fighting is still going on.
9/11 shook all of us to the core.
No, it wasn’t my country, but it was my neighbour, and when someone blows up your neighbour, you REMEMBER it. Watching the twin towers fall… it was apocalyptic. Like a summer Blockbuster that shows the Statue of Liberty lying on her side, and the Eiffel tower in ruins.
It was a big deal.
So here we are, ten years later, remembering those 3,000 innocent victims.
But… 3,000 isn’t that many people, when you think about it in more global terms.
Considering that over 50,000 people worked in those towers, and that in the days after the attack, the city of New York was ordering up to 30,000 body bags… just in case.
Considering that estimates of civilians killed in the subsequent wars are in the hundreds of thousands.
Considering that total death tolls for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan estimates are at nearly 1,000,000.
Each and every one of the dead was someone’s baby.
So today I remember the day that started it all, and I mourn the people lost.
But I also remember the next 10 years, and all the people whose names are on no monuments, and whose loved ones have never been interviewed. They died in the name of the first 3,000… the ones that we remember.