Last night I prayed, as so many would have, for those falling asleep on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the day they lost their most important person. I thought of my beloved husband being killed by terrorists, and imagined myself, 9 years and 364 days from now, lying in bed and thinking “Exactly 10 years ago, my man rubbed his rough heel against my big toe as I moved my feet closer to touch him.”
Because I am not American, this blog won’t be anything spectacular. I am writing it simply so that I will not forget.
10 years ago, I was 12 years old and living in Whangaparaoa, New Zealand.
10 years ago, this was what came to mind when I thought of war:
And then, because I was well-read, my mind expanded to these images:
But I certainly did not feel personally connected to or effected by war. War had not touched New Zealand soil since the land wars of the 19th century.
I did not know much about New Zealand politics, let alone international politics. I had no concept of the Middle East. Though I knew of some Middle Eastern countries, I couldn’t place them on an map. I was 12 years old.
When I thought of America, I thought of this:
My friends and I were crazy over America. Apparently I had been since I was very little. One particular friend and I used to speak in (probably obviously fake) American accents whenever we went out in public together. My ultimate goal in life was to move to America and become famous.
Being in New Zealand, I woke up on the morning of the 12th of September having slept through the attacks. I think it would have been about 3 in the afternoon in New York when my mum woke me up and told me what had happened.
And remember what I said about my concept of war? Suddenly, war came home.
(Which is so, so odd, because it had nothing to do with New Zealand, but like I said, I was 12 years old)
The word, from our knowledge banks, that my friends and I focused on was “conscription.” I distinctly remember sitting outside in a circle, discussing what would happen now that the world was at war. As the 12th of September wore on, we mentally said goodbye to our brothers, our dads, our cousins and, eventually, our classmates (yes, we thought that this war would get so bad that soon they would conscript 12 year olds).
My friends and I devoured every piece of information regarding the attacks we could get our hands on, especially personal stories. I remember feeling hopelessly sad.
The one that has stayed with me the most, is the story of the brother of one of the pilots, who I think was named John. He said that he kept turning around, expecting John to walk up behind him, and it kept hitting him that John wasn’t coming home.
The following weeks were spent being passionately sad as only 12 year olds can be. My friend (the one who spoke in a fake accent with me) and I wrote “We hate Bin Laden” in huge letters in the sand at the beach one night, and then got scared that he’d fly over and see it (I know), and quickly covered it all up again. We taped the radio for days and then played the tapes during lunch times, and upset some of the other kids so much that bringing tapes to school was actually banned. Then there was no war, at least not for us, and I guess at some point we must have shifted our focus to something different.
It is hard for me to say how much the world changed after 9/11, because my age meant that I would soon be losing my innocence slowly anyway. I would say that the world became more aware of the Middle East, but I wonder if that was just me, due to my previous ignorance about it. Looking back, it seemed like the Middle East was closed off to me until that day. I know that since then, I have been more fearful of war. But I wonder, too, if this would have happened anyway as I became more interested in international affairs and more aware of political unrest in New Zealand. For me, the two biggest indicators of the world having changed are in airport security, and in the words of those who were adults at the time.