I have this need to watch programmes about 9/11 – it was event which left an indelible mark on my psyche and last night was no exception.
On watching the programme, The Firemen’s Story (Channel 4 or 5) and those remarkable pictures I remember where I was when it happened so clearly. Do you? What’s your story?
What were you doing when those pictures went across the world and we knew without doubt that we were watching thousands perish before our eyes?
I was filming a light entertainment show in a beautiful house in Somerset owned by a couple who’d decorated it with stuff they’d rescued and recycled.
I was heavily pregnant and wearing a long, huge, black dress. It was very hot and I was having a drink downstairs and the tv was on. Just a few months earlier I’d been in the twin towers having a meal with my husband – a lovely weekend away in New York.
I called him on the telephone telling him there’d been an accident and to turn on the tv. As we were talking I watched the second plane go into the south tower and I knew then it was no accident.
I knew I was looking on helplessly as people died needlessly. It was among the most humbling experiences of my life.
I’ve asked my children to watch some of the programmes as I want them to know what fanaticism can lead to – great pain, great horror, great devastation, and for what? What good came of that act? There were heroes created, but no one wants to be hero because of that act. And there’ve been so many since.
What moved me last night was an interview with a widow, ten years on, who described telling her daughter that her daddy wouldn’t be coming home – ever. Her daughter crumpled on to the floor, ‘she looked like I slapped her’ the mum said. She said she’d never forget it.
All parents can imagine such a dreadful moment – but recently I had to live through it, even if it was as a close bystander. Believe me, I pray it’s never me in that position.
I sat with my beautiful sister as she told her six year old daughter that her daddy, who’d gone to the gym as usual the night before, would never be coming home again. He’d felt ill and had to go to hospital but he was so ill that he’d had to go to heaven. He didn’t want to go but he had no choice.
In adult language – he’d collapsed and died at the age of 49. Gone from our lives, just like that.
It’s like hitting a brick wall that’s so bigand so tall that you just have to hit it. It cannot be avoided.
My sister dealt with it with so much love and dignity that I could hardly bear it – she told my lovely niece that we would feel sad for a while but we would all be happy and have lovely times because that’s what Daddy would want.
All of this when I knew the dark chasm that life had put before this mum of three. A widow at 40 with three small children.
Though the circumstances were vastly different, the effect was the same. A family in total devastation but trying to survive even in the following hours. Trying to ensure that bereaved children still felt there was hope and magic in the world.
To all who lost in 9/11, 7/7 or in any other personal tragedy – I salute you.