Sunday, September 11, 2011

Where were you?

As Alan Jackson asked, where were you when the world stopped turning? Ten years ago today, the twin towers came down in the city that, in reality, is the centre of the North American universe.

I was at work when our accountant rushed in, and down to her office to turn on the news. "The bastards took out the World Trade Centre."

To be honest, I had no idea what she was talking about. Until five minutes later, when my boss called me up to her office. We sat, all of us there that day, and watched in horror as those planes changed the course of history - as they changed millions of lives.

I went downstairs to my desk, unable to watch anymore. I sat in silence, in shock, and with tears rolling down my face. I realized that I had friends in the city, people who were there for work, who lived there, who were on vacations. I was terrified, and the theories flying around were that Toronto, with our CN Tower at the centre of our city, was next.

I called the only person I would be able to reach at that time - my father. His voice was soothing, telling me that if I was that scared, to just come home. My boss would understand. He reassured me that if anything else was going to happen, it wouldn't be right away. And my boss sent me home.

The subway was eerily silent. No one talked - no one listened to music - no one moved except in a zombie-like fashion on and off at their stops.

When I got to the subway, my dad was there to pick me up. More silence on the way home, as neither of us could stand to listen to the news.

My uncle was in New York that day - a trade show for work. He was supposed to be in a building next door to the WTC. But he forgot something at his hotel and had to go  back. And we thank God for that every day. My aunt couldn't reach him for hours - as you know all the cell lines were jammed or down. We all sat in panic, waiting for her to get through, waiting for anyone to find out anything.

I got lucky. My friends and family all made it home safe, if not sound. For years, my uncle watched the terror alerts, couldn't travel with a peace of mind. I'm sure it was the same for millions of others. But for me, that's as personal as it gets.

For others, loved ones didn't make it home. Jobs were lost, personal memories altered, families torn apart.

I don't pretend to be an expert on what happened. I can't give you stats off the top of my head, or even pretend to understand why it was done. All I know is that it was done in the name of their God. Like so many wars that were started before, differences in religious beliefs caused horrific atrocities to be visited on others.

That's one of the many reasons I don't believe in religion. I was raised Catholic, but I no longer go to church. I believe in a higher power - call it whatever you want. And I believe in the end, we all will be held accountable to whomever, or whatever, we believe in for our actions here on Earth. But I don't think I should be told where, when, and to whom I should have to pray and worship to. Religion guides you, but also restricts you. I don't know a lot about different religions, but when hatred and ignorance are born out of interpretations of those, I can't have faith.

Today I pray for the souls of those lost in the attacks. I pray for the lives that were changed forever. I mourn the loss of pride, innocence and purity. But I also rejoice in the love that was shown, the friendships forged, and the support when the world came together, and started turning once more.

For all those affected - today, I pray.

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