December 1995: my first visit to New York City. The Big Apple. So much to see. The famous World Trade Centre was definitely on my “must-see” list. However, I never got past the lobby. Being holiday season, the queue to go up to the observation deck snaked through the lobby and I was short on time. “You can always come back next time,” my friends suggested. So we left. There was never a “next time” for the Twin Towers.
After the Twin Towers were destroyed on September 11, 2001, “Ground Zero” became almost sacred ground. It was the resting place of almost three thousand people. When the dust settled (literally), discussions began about the best way to honour the victims, including the First Respondents who perished during the rescue efforts.
One thing was agreed – that new towers would not be rebuilt where the old towers stood. Instead, a 9/11 Memorial with two reflecting pools featuring North America’s largest man-made waterfalls, would take the place of where the original towers were.
April 2013, construction in progress behind the reflecting pools
Everyone has a story to tell of where they were when a significant news event happened: I was late to school the morning I watched the Challenger explode shortly after blast-off in 1986; I was with my Dad and brother-in-law buying a new air-conditioner the afternoon news broke that Michael Hutchence (lead singer of Aussie band INXS) was found dead in his hotel room in 1997; I was with my parents driving into the city as news trickled in with reports of the car accident that eventually took the life of Diana, Princess of Wales that same year.
Of all the global tragedies during my lifetime so far, there is no doubt the attacks of September 11, 2001, will forever be ingrained in my mind. I remember, as if it was only yesterday, that fateful day when the twin towers of the World Trade Centre (WTC) came down after two planes hijacked by terrorists crashed into those buildings in the heart of New York City.
It was late at night in Sydney when the first plane flew into the North Tower. I had been working on an assignment in my study. My TV was on in the living room – I was waiting for The West Wing to start. It was nothing unusual that programs regularly did not start on time. I kept going out to the living room every couple of minutes to check if the program had started yet. At first, I thought the TV station had changed its programming to some late-night disaster movie when I saw smoke billowing from an office tower. Then I realised it was “Breaking News”.
Like everyone else, I was stunned and horrified at what I was seeing. There was no real explanation as to what was going on. Reports told of a tragic plane crash – everyone thought it was an accident. It had to be. How else could you explain what had happened?