History is not a heroic story, nor memory a block of marble inscribed with imperishable words of grief and rage. In Tony Blair’s account of this act of inhuman cruelty, in his book A Journey (Published: 9 Jun 2011), he wrote “It is amazing how quickly shock is absorbed and the natural rhythm of the human spirit reasserts itself … We remember, but not as we felt at that moment.” How time flies, how terrific time devours our dearest and dreadful memories, how we are striped of realities and left with reflection.
Personally, I remember the shock of that moment perfectly…even though I didn’t watch the live clips of the incidence – I doubt if any Nigerian of my age watched the live streaming anyway…that afternoon I was roaming a flea-market with my mum doing last minutes shopping as I prepared to resume for Senior Secondary school…I recall a ‘now-funny’ exclamation – a market-version of the breaking news. It came from the wheel-barrow pusher who was helping with our grasps.
He said to me as my mum bargained on (in Yoruba) “friend, are you aware the world is ending today?”
“What? How do you know” I asked with my church mind flashing back at those end time teaching and scary antichrist stories I have heard in church teachings.
I can’t remember waiting for him to explain; I immediately tapped my mum to gain her attention and tell her what I just heard. In swift successions we noticed quick movement in some session of the market and shops where closing-up.
I wouldn’t have been scared if not for the previous information…shortly, there was this heavy guy that ran across the market shouting “WORLD WAR III, WORLD WAR III, WORLD WAR III…America has been destroyed!!!” he kept shouting those words as he ran across the market .
Shops started to close-up for real, movement became more disorganised.
Soon, we were heading home on a charted cab.
Thank goodness, there was powers supply, mum just went straight for the TV, but unfortunately it was not better than the breaking news we heard on the car-radio, as we could not get video clips of the said attack…the best we got was the news and a promise to update us with the latest as it unfolds.
My imaginations were running wild…borrowing from all the “action-films” I had watched. Didn’t even know what is done at WORLD TRADE CENTER…I assumed every country of the world has an office in the building, for international trading and finance.
I was stuck to the TV set for about three hours till the Local TV station was able to relay blurry clips of the horror at the 6 P.M news. I called my lil’bro and mum, who had missed the main news…they looked on as they expected the news-recap.
My attempt to relay what I had seen sounded so fake and abstract; it was unlike all the “action film” I had imagined it to look like. In a short while the news recaps were on…and I was in more shock as I saw Jet dive into the twin tower and the building cracking and falling into crumbles…knowing it was a stale news, I had a hard time imagining what would be happening in the families of the victims of that hijacked plane, the inhabitants of the tower, the environment, the passersby, in beloved NYC and the US as I went to bed that night…I eat though!
The night was so long as I look forward to reading and hearing hot-group debates at a newspaper stand two streets away from ours the next morning…I should say I had night mares, which is strange, considering I am not an American and I only witness it on television in an outskirt of Akure, Nigeria. That’s the best a village boy could have of such event.
…having said that…
9/11 is 12 years behind us, a stuff for debate, and substance of history and a subject of study. After 9/11, we have had Obama’s Elections, Arab Spring, Afghanistan’s Ransack, Osama’s Execution, Steve Job’s Death, Gadhafi’s Termination, Mid-East/Syria Crisis, Chinua Achebe’s Exit …12 years of bonuses of heart breaking headline news and events…
…the world moves on leaping and learning.
Around the 10th year remembrance of the dastard attack, I came across this controverted picture taken by Thomas Hoepker. Hoepker, a senior figure in the renowned Magnum photographers’ co-operative, chose not to publish it in 2001 and to exclude it from a book of Magnum pictures of that horribly unequalled day.
“Perhaps the real reason Hoepker sat on it at the time was because it would be egotistical to assert his own cunning as an artist in the midst of mass slaughter.
Today, the meaning of this photograph has nothing to do with judging individuals. It has become a picture about history, and about memory. As an image of a cataclysmic historical moment it captures something that is true of all historical moments: life does not stop dead because a battle or an act of terror is happening nearby… 10 years on, the meaning of this photograph is that memories fade fast. The people in the foreground are us. We are the ones whose lives went on, touched yet untouched, separated from the heart of the tragedy by the blue water of time, which has got ever wider and more impossible to cross. A 10-year-old event belongs to history, not the present. To feel the full sorrow of it now you need to watch a documentary – and then you will switch to something lighter, either because it is painfully clear that too much blood has been spent around the world in the name of this disaster, or simply because changing channels is what humans do. The people in this photograph cannot help being alive, and showing it.” wrote theguardian.com 2/9/11.
Ahead of today’s twelfth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States (September 11, 2001), families, friends, colleagues and others worldwide have in various ways been remembering the victims of the incident.
I dedicate this memoir to Mr. Godwin Ajala, the only officially listed among the deceased. A Nigerian trained lawyer who at the time worked as a post guard at the WTC. Ajala is undoubtedly one of the heroes of the 9/11 attack. One of the best tributes which aptly captures the place of Ajala among the victims of the attack is by a blogger named CarpeDM. “In a world where so many people are looking out for their selves, this man risked his life for others. Who knows how many were saved because of him? Today, whenever I see a flag or hear someone speak about 9/11/01, I will think of all those who died. And I will think of all those who survived because of men and women like Godwin Ajala.”
Oluwatade T. Faith