Reflecting on 9/11
Where were you on September 11, 2001? I’m sure you’ll never forget the answer to that as that was the day our world changed forever.
This weekend, on the 10 year anniversary of this tragic event, my thoughts and prayers are with the families and individuals who suffered such great loss. And with our southern neighbours and friends as we navigate in the changing times.
Here’s my story. (As published on canada.com)
Watching the Horror From a World Away
It would be a difficult task to find anyone today over the age of 20 who is unable to recall where they were and what they were doing on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. For most Canadians this day will be forever etched in our minds as a day of tragedy and disbelief. Though not on home soil, an attack of such magnitude on our neighbours to the south, felt like an attack on our extended family.
As I allow my mind to drift back a decade ago, the memories come back as vivid as yesterday’s events. I felt alone and lost on the other side of the world. As a Canadian teaching English as a second language to school-aged children in South Korea, I had never felt more homesick. In South Korea, the news of what was later to be referred to as 9/11, came on Sept. 12 at roughly 10 p.m. I was watching a DVD movie and not tuned in to live TV. It was a phone call from a fellow Canadian teacher that alerted me of the news.
Startled, I quickly found one of the few English-speaking channels and learned of the horror. I’ll never forget the images displayed on the screen before me. Smoke billowing from the World Trade Center towers, speculation of a terrorist attack. My heart started to race.
I managed a quick call home to my mom, who was watching the terror unfold from her workplace. The speculation in her office was that Afghanistan had declared war on the United States. How quickly rumours unfolded. I hung up the phone and began to cry. I stared at my face in the mirror; disbelief written all over it. What did this mean for me? What did this mean for Canadians and what did this mean for our world?
Despite not sleeping that evening I made my way into work the next day. On my bewildered stroll into Pyeongchang (the city in which I worked, and the city now set to host the 2018 Winter Olympics) almost every Korean I passed apologized to me for the tragedy my country had suffered – I was often confused for an American, being referred to as “Mi-Gook,” the name for Americans in the Korean language.
Though I was never bothered by the assumption I would often explain that I was from Canada, but on that day I accepted the condolences without dispute. To me it felt as if the attack had happened to my country and to my people.
Perhaps it was the distance between me and my home or the natural sympathy one experiences after a tragedy, but I felt a kinship to my American neighbours like never before. I felt that we were one. I was angry and protective like an older sister of her younger siblings.
On that day and those to follow, there were many discussions among the foreign teachers. We had all arrived in South Korea by plane and now the fear of flying was at an all-time high. How were we going to return home? What seemed like the best alternative at the time was to make the long journey home by boat. While a ridiculous thought, it seemed to be the only plausible option for a task so daunting.
The days after the attack turned to weeks and the weeks to months; the fear slowly subsided. We returned to our daily routines as English teachers in a foreign land; no one took a ship home. But something did change for us on that day 10 years ago, and we would eventually return home to the comforts of Canada as different people; transformed souls in a transformed world.