9/11, or Patriot Day, is a shared memory that’s both universally sombre and individual to each of us. I’m sure I don’t need to explain what the day commemorates, so instead I thought back to where I was at the time I heard the news.
I was just starting my second year of university; in fact, it was probably about a week or so before lectures had started. Me and my friend Caroline, who I haven’t seen in years, were down Whitefriargate, a pedestrianised street in Hull’s city centre. She was buying a new mobile from a phone shop that’s now a butchers or something, and suddenly a guy came in and announced more with bemusement than anything else that a plane had just crashed into the World Trade Center. The reaction in the shop was strange; no one showed signs of shock, instead we just all went quiet for the longest two seconds I’ve ever experienced, not knowing what to say. That was until the guy behind the counter who had been serving my friend, in an attempt to break the tension, said, “Where’s Will Smith when you need him?”
That’s the part I remember the most from 9/11. Not the images of the plane as it blasted into the first tower, not the immense plumes of choking dust filling the New York skyline, not even the grimy faces of countless victims and heroes as they made their way through the ground level turmoil, but the young phone salesman in a shop that disappeared ages ago. The reason for this is that it was such a genuine human reaction and he visibly regretted it immediately afterwards. Not that he needed to; he wasn’t making light of the situation, it was simply an awkward response to break the silence.
Obviously I think of many things when people talk of 9/11, but it shows just how ingrained an event is in your memory when you can recall such an inconsequential detail with true clarity.
As always, my thoughts go to all those who were affected by the attacks.