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I Remember – 9/11

On September 11, 2001, the world lost its innocence when terrorists crashed hijacked airplanes into The World Trade Centre, The Pentagon and into a field in Pennsylvania.

This is my story of where I was and what I was doing when I first heard the news.

I was living in Sydney.  It was around about 11pm and I was preparing to go bed when my best friend Dave called me and told me that an airplane had crashed into the World Trade Centre in New York.  I didn’t even know what the World Trade Centre was.

I turned on the television and was confronted with both buildings on fire with smoke billowing out of each building.  The reporters were explaining that terrorists had crashed commercial airliners in each building.

Images of people crying and watching in horror at the scene unfolding before them occupied the screen.

My mother was staying with us at the time and she had just gone to bed.  I decided pretty quickly that this was the biggest story in the world for the last 50 years so I woke her as I felt she would want to be watching this event as it unfolded.  I tried waking my wife but she was too tired and couldn’t be stirred with some gentle persuasion.  She slept through the night.

Reports were saying that there was another aircraft uncontactable and another hijacking was possibly taking place.  I remember thinking that this is just the media sensationalising an already sensational event.  Not long afterwards the news feed from the US was showing an explosion at the Pentagon which ended up being one of the hijacked planes reported not long before.

Then images I thought I would never see in my life filled my screen.  At first I couldn’t believe that people were jumping from the buildings.  I remember thinking why the hell would someone jump from a 110 story building.  What terror were they experiencing to not even wait for rescue?  What were the conditions like in the bulding that they would rather jump to a certain death?

It was heart wrenching.

Not long after, one of the buildings appeared to be getting swallowed up in a dust cloud.  I said to my mum that it’s collapsing.  She said that it couldn’t be.  Within seconds it was confirmed on live TV.  One of the buildings was collapsing, floor by floor and in no time at all the building had completely collapsed and all that was left was a dust cloud and a pile of rubble.

The images of people running and screaming from the collapsing building are permanently imprinted in my mind.  I’ll never forget it.  Their looks of anguish and horror and uncertainty.  These people on the streets didn’t know what was happening.  They weren’t watching the news like we were.  Most wouldn’t have known that this was a terrorist attack.  They were running for their lives, uncertain that their next step could be their last. They weren’t running from the buildings.  They were running to their future.

During the first hour or so of watching this destruction I was on the phone talking to family and friends, sharing our fears about what was going on.  Fearing for those still in the buildings and acknowledging those who had died.  Talking about what must be going through the minds of the people on the planes as they smashed into the buildings and for those who saw the planes coming their way.

Then the second building collapsed in the same way the first had done earlier.  New York was now a war zone.  A huge pillar of smoke and dust and grit covered the iconic city.

People were covered in dust.  They looked like they were from an alien planet.  Some were injured.  Most were simply scared.

Then news came through that a plane had crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.  At the time we didn’t know if it was connected or not but it had to be.  As history tells us, the passengers on this plane fought back against its hijackers and paid the ultimate price but they saved thousands of lives in the process.

I eventually went to bed around 3am.  I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer but watching this historic event unfold was too important to miss.  The replays of the planes smashing into the World Trade Centre had been permanently seared into my brain.  Even nine years on, as I write this article, I can still see each image as though it was being replayed in front of me.  It is something I will never forget.

I woke at 6am after a few hours of shut eye and went straight to the TV for the latest news.  Hoping that there were no more hijackings.  Luckily there wasn’t.  I woke my wife and told her what had been happening.  She was shocked and appalled at the news.

The next few weeks all anyone could talk about was the tragic events of 9/11.  The images of George W Bush when he was first told while reading at a school.  Mayor Rudi Gulliani fronting the press each day.  The scene of the firefighters hoisting the American flag amongst the rubble.  The pride of the Americans for their firefighters, when so many of them and many police officers died in the line of duty trying to save those in the buildings. 

These are images I will never forget.

The thing to remember from this is that while almost 3,000 people died in the 9/11 attacks, thousands more have died since in the War on Terror, both those from the Coalition of the Willing lead by America, Britain and Australia but also those Iraqi’s and Afghan’s who have died as well.

Australia has lost 21 diggers in the war in Afghanistan including Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney who died last month.  His funeral was held yesterday in Brisbane and on the same day, his wife gave birth to their son.  A son, that Lance Corportal Jared MacKinney will never see.

The impact of the attacks on 9/11 will be felt for many generations to come.  I will never forget and I would like to dedicate this post to not only the people who died on that day, but to all those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice since then and for those who will unfortunately pay that price in the future.  My heart goes out to your family and friends as well.

Thank you.

Do you remember where you were when you first found out?  What did you do that day/night?  What were your initial thoughts?

The Australian Flag – It’s time for a change

I think it’s time for a change.  I agree with Ray Martin who came out in the media this week calling for a change to the Australian flag which we have had since 1901.

While I wasn’t alive in 1901 I can understand the importance of having the Union Jack represented on the flag.  We were still very much in our infancy as a nation and we were reliant on the British Empire for support and guidance.  We had established our system of government based on the Westminster system, we had a prime minister just like England and the Queen and the monarchy were very much relevant.  Much has changed.

Australia has grown up.  We have fought in our own wars that Britain was not involved in (Vietnam) and we haven’t fought in wars that they were (Falkland Islands).  We don’t look to Britain for guidance anymore.  We don’t see the monarchy as relevant.  Eventually we will end up as a republic.  We make decisions based on what is good for Australia, not what is good for the Empire.  We all know what happen at Gallipoli where our soldiers were slaughtered based primarily on British Orders.

Now I get as emotional as the next guy when I see the Australian flag raised at the Olympics when one of our athlete’s has won gold.  I use to get goose bumps when Matthew Hayden would touch the flag each time he walked onto the field to bat in a test match but let’s be honest.  I am not getting emotional about the design of the flag, but for what the flag represents.  Australia.  My home.

An argument for keeping the flag is that many diggers have died for the flag during many wars.  I don’t believe they went to war for the flag itself.  The flag represents Australia, no matter the design.  These brave men and women fought for Australia, not the design of the flag itself.  Perhaps on the flip side of that argument, you had men who did not volunteer for the army during World War 1 because it had the Union Jack on it.  Perhaps there were men who did not want to fight under the banner of the British and as history now tells us, they were the smart ones.

I can feel for the Aboriginies who look at the Australian flag and for many they associate it with the time their country was invaded by the British.  Why can’t we have a flag that represents all Australians?  The Australian Prime Minister said sorry to the Aboriginal people in 2008 so doesn’t the next stage involve changing the flag as well?

Other countries have successfully changed their flags, most notably South Africa.  Their new flag is one which represents all of their people both indigenous and those of European descent.  It has brought their country together, under one flag.   I am confident that this would also occur in Australia.

The current Australian flag was designed in 1901 and was the subject of a worldwide competition to design a new flag for the new nation of Australia which celebrated its federation that same year.  Perhaps this could be the way the new Australian flag is decided upon.  I have seen many suggestions and this blog is not to think about what the new flag would look like.

It is time for our nation to stand fully on our own.  We thank Britain for their support and their guidance over the past 222 years and we will always support each other.  We are all grown up now and we need a flag which is ours and ours alone.

No matter what, I will always love what our flag represents no matter its design.  I would just like to see something without the Union Jack.  It is no longer relevant to me.

So are you with me?  Agree?  Disagree?  Let’s open up this debate.

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