On 9/11, 19 years ago, I was alone in my small apartment in Dieppe, New Brunswick. It was only a bedroom. My smallest apartment in Tokyo was even bigger than that place. The apartment building felt more like a dormitory with its shared bathrooms, kitchen, and a few strange people.
I graduated from college just a few months prior. I had no job, no life, no class. I was feeling down because I missed going to college everyday, doing something, and meeting people. The laughters, the lessons, the group works… Everything came to a screeching halt with we finished our programme. Many of them left right away, going back to where they came from. Me, I had place to go.
It was lunch time. I didn’t have much to do. My job search in the time wasn’t fruitful. In the small fridge, there was a single sausage left and a bun. I thought I’d just make myself a hotdog. Convenience stores and supermarkets weren’t close and I didn’t feel like walking half an hour to do groceries. I turned on my small 13” TV, set on top a rotating table my father made, and tuned in to watch Jerry Springer.
Instead of the trash TV show I watched out of desperation for entertainment, I saw a breaking news report. In the background, the Twin Towers, smoking. In the foreground, a black man was on the rooftop of another building, reporting the event. I didn’t understand what was going on. I thought it was a massive fire, but I didn’t know planes crashed into the buildings.
I went to the bathroom to wash my hands. There was only one bathroom on every floor, with showers, shared by all the tenants. When I came back, one of towers was gone. I was wondering if this was a sick joke by Jerry. Was this some kind of satire?
With all the hysteria, I still couldn’t figure out what was going on. I made the hot dog. I ate it. I still didn’t follow what I was watching.
I went to the bathroom again and came back. I’m not even sure I needed to. I think I just went because I was bored. But after I came back, now the second building was gone too.
For a brief moment, I chuckled, “I have to stop going to the bathroom—it’s making everything worse,” I thought.
But it was not joke.
I turned the dial. Other channels started talking about what was happening. And then I saw the most horrific images being played over and over any station I tuned in: a plane crashing into one of the buildings. Someone was filming the towers from the ground after the first plane struck, and caught images of the second one. Then, workers jumping to their death out the windows of the towers before they collapse. After the collapse, people escaping the tonnes of yellowish dust settling on them and on the ground.
Despite being in Canada, an 11-hour drive away from New York, people were afraid here too. Practically anyone working in a skyscraper, including Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa, and even in Moncton, the small city neighbouring mine, were asked to go home that day.
As for me, well, I suppose I could only be grateful for not being there. My mind started racing, imagining how it must have been like to be in the tower, seeing that plane coming right at you. Even if you survived that, you just knew you wouldn’t get out; you knew your time was up.
I didn’t know what to think. I went to bed that night, and I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t even know anyone there, and yet… I stayed up that night. I think I wept a little. I couldn’t tell if I felt that way because of how sad my life was or because of what I saw that day. Probably both.
The next morning, I woke up. Groggy and tired. I have only slept for an hour or two.
When came lunch time, I just looked at my TV set.
I wasn’t watching anything. The TV was off. A blank screen was the show I watched that day. Not Jerry Springer. Not breaking news.
The following day, instead of staying alone for lunch again, I went out for a walk.
After 9/11, I never turned on a TV at lunch time again.
Header image source: Michael Foran on Flickr.