11 Sept 2001! 18 Yrs Later, Still Remember that ‘Black Tuesday’ When I Was at Work in Chicago
11 Sept 2001, around 9.15 am! 18 Yrs Later, Still Remember that ‘Black Tuesday’ When I Was at Work in Chicago-USA
Mangalore: Today 11 September ( It is early morning in most parts of the USA) marks the 18 years of 9/11 terror attacks in America. The image of two passenger planes flying into the twin towers of the World Trade Center is permanently etched on public memory. On 11 September 2011 early morning, four passenger planes had taken off from different airports in the US with three pre-decided targets. Two planes hit the New York buildings. Third one hit Pentagon, the headquarters of the US Department of Defense and caused little damage to the building. The fourth had a bigger target – the Capitol Hill, the seat of US government in Washington DC.
But the passengers of the United Airlines flight showed remarkable sense of courage and willingness to sacrifice their lives to protect the US. They challenged the terrorists and thwarted their attempt to take the flight to Washington DC. It crashed into an open field in neighbouring Pennsylvania. For that one day on 11 September 2001, terror seemed to have become the master of the world. There was panic in every country. This was the first time that the US had been attacked by an outside force since 1941 when Japan targeted Pearl Harbour in the Hawaii Islands and the first ever on the mainland America since the Revolutionary War of 18th century.
This article is a tribute and solely dedicated to the thousands people who lost their lives on September 11, 2001 when America was mercilessly attacked by terrorists, which was a vicious, unprovoked, horrible attack on innocent men, women and children. And it was also the most heinous acts certainly in the world history. This article is also a salute to the matchless courage of the US public servants, the policemen and firefighters, who selflessly laid their lives on the line of duty to help others and who died trying to save them. These men and women epitomized the indomitable spirit and courage of a nation forged in freedom and demonstrated that the United States would not succumb to violence and terror. Instead America would rebuild and be stronger than ever.
On that “Black Tuesday” September 11, 2001, the unthinkable happened–the United States of America was attacked by terrorists. The World Trade Center’s twin towers in New York, and the Pentagon in Pennsylvania, icons filled with thousands of people, were devastated. This ” Day of Infamy”changed the outlook of the free world forever. Within minutes, the infernos were identified as a merciless attack by international terrorists against America. Shock and disbelief reverberated around the world as the death toll rose and the awful implications of the attack became clear.
On that day of 11 Sept 2001, I remember US President then George W Bush saying “Make no mistake : The United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts. The resolve of our great nation is being tested. But make no mistake : we will show the world that we will pass the test. God bless”. And yes, driven by the events, America and her allies united as one against the terrorist attack, demonstrating their cohesion in a measured and reasoned, yet implacable response : Such acts of terror are unacceptable . The terrorists were put on notice that they would be hunted down and brought to justice. As it was said, within the next few years quite a few terrorists who were master-mind behind several attacks were hunted down, captured or killed, among whom was America’s Most Wanted Person, Osama Bin Laden who was gunned down in June 2011. Killing Osama was a big plus point for Barack Obama, the present President of USA in 2011
President George W. Bush learns of the attacks while sitting in front of a class of Children at a school event in Florida on 11 Sept 2001
And today, after leaving Chicago suburbs six years ago for good and now being nearly 10,000 miles away living in Mangaluru, I still remember that day, September 11, 2001, around 9.30 am while I was in the laboratory busy with some testing to be done at my work place, Alcoa Inc ( one of the world’s largest Aluminium producing Company) located in far-East Chicago suburbs, where I was employed as Sr Lab Tech, I received a call from HR Manager to immediately come to her office. When you get such calls from the HR dept, it would be for-either you did a terrible mistake or you are fired or laid off from the job. With full nervousness, I walked slowly towards the HR manager’s office.
In the meantime, there was a announcement from the company management over the PA system saying that, ” Attention all employees. We have received a message that America has been attacked and there are deaths and casualties. We want all employees to assemble at the plant premises immediately for a urgent meeting,”. ” Oh my God, what’s going on “, I thought to myself and panicked. Walking into her office with total nervousness, the HR Manager told me that I should go home immediately, and that she would call me within an hour.
I asked the Manager if I had done anything wrong with my work. She replied, ” Every thing is fine. You just go home and relax. I will call and let you know later”. I drew back home, still confused as to what was going on. A few hours later, I got a call from the HR manager and she said, ” The reason we send you home is due to the fact that we didn’t wanted you to get hurt by some employees, ( because our company had a few employees belonging to the bikers gang, who are totally prejudice towards Blacks and ethnic colour) taking revenge on you because of the terrorists attack. You can take few paid days off, until everything is normal. Until we call you back, take it easy and don’t get stressed out-the company is with you”. I realized what she meant, because of my brown colour and ethnicity, and me being the only Indian in the whole company, (and the only other foreigner in our company was a Iranian), the company didn’t wanted to be a target of hate crime. For the next 48 hours I was glued to the sofa watching the aftermath of the attacks on the television.
As my company had allowed me take few days paid leave, I didn’t wanted to waste time sitting at home doing nothing, instead as a active member of United Way; and also member of American Red Cross, both Non-profit organization, I volunteered my self in the rescue efforts work in New York, where the attacks took place- and around 100 plus of us took a flight from Chicago to New York, all expenses borne by the NGO’s, and we lend our helping hand in clearing the debris, assisting the fire brigade and police personnel etc. It was one of the horrible and disastrous scenes that I had seen in my life, spending four days at the attacked site.
Numerous incidents of harassment and hate crimes against Muslims and South Asians were reported in the days following the 9/11 attacks. Sikhs were also targeted because Sikh males usually wear turbans, which are stereo- typically associated with Muslims. There were reports of attacks on mosques and religious places including a Hindu temple, and assaults on people who looked like Arabs or were dark brown coloured. Various crimes such as vandalism, arson, assault. shooting. harassment and threats in numerous places were documented. I also did face some hard times for a while moving around in the city, malls or grocery stores. Americans used to stare at me because I was brown, with an kind of anger in their face. But the law officials and the government had brought everything under control seeing that no harm is done to the immigrants from other countries, especially Arab countries and South Asia.
As a part-time news contributor, when I was writing for a daily newspaper in my town, I took the initiative to write couple of articles that would educate and make understand the readers and the people, that being a ethnic person or brown coloured had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks. I even send an article to the White House communication department, which was very much appreciated by the White House publicity board for bringing awareness among the people about race, ethnicity and religion. Even when the US Vice President on his way towards a convention in Peoria, had made a stop in my town, Ottawa, and I had the privilege of meeting him, where we discussed some views and news. I was later presented with a certificate of appreciation from the White House Communication for hospitality shown towards the VP during his few hours stay in my town.( see the picture of the certificate)
But I would really like to thank the Americans who handled the 9/11 tragedy peacefully, considerably and patiently, and also with generous understanding. If the same tragedy would have taken place in India or Middle East, it would have resulted in riots, looting, bloodshed and thousands of deaths. Yes, terrorism is not dead yet, it is still continuing all over the world, including India. We have seen the Mumbai terror attacks, and also there have many other terror attacks in India since then. But with unity and trust in God, we can defeat terrorism and make this world a better place. Let us not hate each other, instead let’s all be friends.
The terrorists who instigate and plan these past and continuing attacks evidently wish to to poison our relations, make use of all means, including religion, to oppose every attempt to build a peaceful life together. Islamic-fascist brain washing turned them into terrorists. And just because these hard-core extremists are Muslims, we shouldn’t hate rest of the Muslims-they are also good people just like us. We shouldn’t judge a person wrong because of his colour and ethnicity, we need to know the person better before we start hating him. Yes, September 11, 2001 was a day that changed America forever. It also changed the Americans attitude towards immigrants. It was a day that was full of so many emotions – fear, uncertainty, shock, anger, sorrow, grief – but it was also a day full of hope. It was a moment that has defined a generation, a day that has defined the 21st century. 9/11 altered the course of history and forever changed the lives of many throughout the world.
As a proud Indian and also as a naturalized U S Citizen, I end this tribute column with a thought-provoking message to the people of America who had lost their loved ones, work colleagues and friends in that tragic disaster, to cope with the 9/11 tragedy and the threat of terrorism :
-To America With Love…….” America, our friend in the East, and also in the West. In this time of still terrorism danger, my mind goes to you and my heart throbs for you. Your trust in God, your actions of kindness will never go in vain, nor heaven lets you down ! Don’t be pale and nervous and feel lonely. The civilized world is with you. America, our friend, we know it for certain. Help you never need in crisis, disaster or gloom. You can stand alone, and you can walk alone. Still with your thoughts and heartfelt prayers, we are with you. And we are with you, always. May God bless America- the greatest land on Earth. May God bless and protect you all. Long live America, a great friend to all other nations”