15 years ago on this day, the World Trade Center towers in New York saw their last sunrise and were ready to welcome myriads of office workers and tourists. The workers and tourists should have stayed at home that day.
Meanwhile, I was sleeping quietly after working late night thousands of miles west, in North Las Vegas. I always came back home after two in the morning and slept until about nine or ten. Tuesday, September 11th, 2001 was my day off. I could sleep a bit more. But on a day off I always went to the public library north of downtown to go online and write to my friends about my American adventure.
I usually came to the library a bit earlier to be the first in line as there were only a few computers available. That morning those few people who came even earlier were already inside the hall. They were all watching a small TV in the corner that showed a pile of rubble and billowing smoke.
It took me a few long seconds to realize what was going on. Surely, when we were allowed inside I rushed to read the news before I could write anything to my friends all over the world that the World Trade Center was no more. The world, however, already knew – it was an evening in Russia and afternoon in Europe. It was all over in New York when Las Vegas only braced the late morning heat.
All the details came later. The President addressed the nation in the evening. The flags on every car appeared the next day. The slow excavation of the site took the next few weeks. The anthrax scare and the war in Afghanistan were more than a month ahead. What happened in Las Vegas on that Tuesday was merely nothing – people were slow to fully embrace the news coming from the East Coast and to fully realize that it was some turning point, not just another terrorist attack, not even from some homegrown lone fighter.
What followed was a streak of publications in local liberal media on how America at least partially deserved that blow from countries where it had wreaked havoc and grown terror groups. And I only learned about 9/11 conspiracy theories much later. With limited access to the Internet and busy working life that had luckily begun before a wave of local unemployment allowed me to only witness the bits and pieces of people’s reactions, the most vivid of which was waving flags on car hoods and lowered flags on poles at various government buildings.
The world would soon change. It would collapse after the WTC towers into a never-ending streak of wars and terrorist attacks that would take us to the current crumbling balance. However, all of this was not to be seen right there and then. Life had to go on and it did albeit with caution and tremor. Life even looked quieter with no planes but the military ones flying the busy skies of Las Vegas (or any place in the country). The fall of the World Trade Center marked the end of Clinton’s happy decade and the start of the W. Bush entrance into the new millennium.
I had never really had a chance to see the World Trade Center, maybe just for a fleeting hazy moment while being taken on a bus from JFK to New Jersey back in June. I would never see the World Trade Center apart from smoke and lots of lights at the excavation ground – all that from a plane approaching La Guardia in the dark of the night in October. It was one big thing I wanted to see. But I never wanted to see it like that.
Yet it was. The only thing left was that fragment of the WTC towers metal frame with a torn American flag that lost the optimistic saturation of its colours in the dust and grief.