Monday, September 11, 2006

5 Years Later

They say every generation has its moment, a historic event frozen in time so vividly in one's memory that a person takes that to his grave.
My dad once told me he remembers clearly still exactly what he was doing when he got the news of John F. Kennedy's assasination. Mom remembers that moment too.
I imagine for another generation, it might have been Pearl Harbor. Or the atomic bomb.
It's not difficult to imagine what that moment would be for people of my generation.
It was the day I learnt that evil truly exists in this world.
Before that moment, I was naive enough to think that man, inherently, was good. But that taught me that some people deep down truly are full of evil, and hatred. People who would maim, torture and kill for the sake of their own sick, blind and ignorant interpretation of what their God asks of them.
I was in KL then. Staying at a friend's apartment when he came knocking on my door. We watched CNN together. My eyes did not believe what they saw. A building on fire. Replays of the first plane flying into it. And then the 2nd. I remained glued to the TV. In disbelief. Horror. And when the towers fell, half a world away, it felt like someone had stuck a red-hot dagger into my very chest. I had to go into my room. I said a prayer for those who were killed. The tears fell before I was done.
I called my (then) girlfriend to make sure she was ok. Though, being in Canada, she was oblivious to the ongoing nightmare.
The news started trickling in in the next few days. I heard from a friend from medical school who was doing an emergency medicine residency in NYC at that time. She said in her email that it was eerie. They had prepped the hospital for a disaster, ambulances after ambulances, bringing in the wounded. But they never came. We know now, it was because they didn't make it.

I went to work the next day shellshocked. How I can explain it, I don't know; I knew of no one personally in the tragedy. But the pain was real. And so was the anger. The intense anger, and shame to be a human being, when at the medical school where I worked, this lady lecturer said, "Serves them right. They deserve it."
At that moment, I had to resist the impulse to go up to her and slap her across the cheek. Shouting. Doesn't she know masses of people were killed? Masses. Nothing can justify that act. No racial, religious, political differences. This comment, coming from a professional in an institution of learning, of healthcare. The irony. A product of a country's racist system, no doubt.
3 years later, on 9/11, I visited Ground Zero. Though the ruins had been removed, the mangled beams that made out a cross remained. A stubborn symbol of faith in man's darkest moment.

There were hundreds of visitors. Yet, silence. Everyone just looked on. Some prayed. Some held hands. Some cried. Some (family?) took turns reading out short paragraphs of biography of the victims. Perhaps afraid, someday, their loved ones would be forgotten.

That day changed not only families of the victims. That was a day that changed a generation. A day when the human species took a step backwards. And yet, a day when commonfolk and the men and women in uniform, showed us the real meaning of heroism.

No, we shall never forget. The ones who died. The ones who lived. The ones who reminded the rest of us what live, love and strength is about.
(And to the ones who think that your cause is worth killing thousands for, here's a big FUCK YOU. I hope you burn in hell)