9/11 15 years on

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9/11 15 years on

September 11th 2001 is undoubtedly the day the earth stood still, people of all generations can recall where they were when news broke out about the attack on the World Trade Centre.  For the first time in history, American citizens were at war with an unknown enemy on the very streets that they live, work and play. The words of former President George Bush echoed the way every American was feeling throughout the country “our way of life, our very freedom came under attack”.

I was very lucky to be able to be in New York on the 15th anniversary of the attacks. At the start of the day the official ceremonies took place at the World Trade Center with the family of those who died and the survivors of the attacks. Throughout the city small ceremonies were taking place and I was very fortunate to have one directly outside the hotel that I was staying at and it had drawn quite a crowd.

When the ceremony concluded, I visited the statue of liberty and during an audio tour I was amazed at the importance of the landmark on that day, ‘when the smoke cleared from the towers, the statue of liberty was one of the first visible landmarks from the ground’. Even in the face of the worst attacks to ever happen to civilians on American soil, liberty stood tall, a visual reminder that New York hadn’t fallen. She stood as tall and proud as ever before, creating an even more personal connection between the landmark and the city.

Later that afternoon I visited a church service that was being held right next to the World Trade Center to remember the victims of the attacks. The music composed was directly inspired by the events that took place focusing on the courage shown by those that responded and the danger they were in.  It was something truly beautiful to hear and to see the faces of those attending who had lost loved ones where they could find somewhere to sit and remember them.

When the official ceremonies had concluded at the World Trade Center Memorial, the families and survivors were taken to the 9/11 museum which was closed to the public, allowing them to all remember in peace.   The scenes from the North and South pool where the towers once stood was truly breathtaking where flowers and flags were visible everywhere as hundreds came to pay their respects.  I was amazed to see the unity that was shown that day, people had come from around the world to pay their respects and seeing so many people in their home nations service uniforms, military and civilian, really gave the opportunity to reflect on the impact these attacks had around the world and not just within America.

There was a tension in the air throughout the site, a sense of shared pain and suffering. The memorials themselves were 2 large squares, leading down into the ground with water continually pouring through them. The names were engraved in stone around the perimeter of each base of the tower reminding all that attended that these names would never be removed nor forgotten, those that paid the ultimate price that day would forever be remembered. Occasionally as the wind would pick up the water from within the memorials would be blown up, creating a fine spray covering the crowds, each time causing laughter and bringing together those that were under it and I feel that really summed up the day, that these strangers, remembering something so horrific could still show one of the most fundamental aspects of humanity – solidarity, even in such circumstances as this.

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The day concluded with a visit to the “Tribute in light”, 2 series of bright lights placed upon a rooftop only a block away from where the towers once stood. These cut into the city light so brightly that they were visible throughout all New York, a beacon for the city and for the world to rally behind in our continual fight against terror.

As the day closed what I really held on to from my experiences is that today, throughout this city and the world, people were united together against a common enemy, one who would seek out to strike fear into the very heart of who we are. Today strangers were gathered together by the worst of circumstances yet showed the greatest of unity.  These attacks sought to divide America, to make her turn upon herself, yet the opposite is true, what I saw was a city stronger, braver and more unified than ever before.

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*Attached are a couple of VR shots from the day, for the best experience I’d recommend using Google cardboard to view them.

For more information, please visit the 9/11 memorial site: http://www.911memorial.org/

By George Webster.

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