10 years on, and the memories of that terrible day are still fresh as ever in my mind. Here in Suzhou (China), we (a few of my American colleagues, friends, and I) observed a one-minute silence in respect of all those innocent victims who lost their lives. Here in China, it was somewhat of a bad timing for the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 event because today (9/12/2011) is the official Mid-Autumn Festival. The vast majority of the population in China is not aware of what 9/11 means, and when the attacks actually happened in 2001, there were mixed feelings among many Chinese people. The general reaction that comes across from many Chinese people is like 'oh, this is America's problem, nothing for China to worry about', or 'China does not have any presence in Afghanistan or Iraq, so we don’t need to worry any such attacks here'. The vast majority of the population still has this belief. For local Chinese people, there is a sense of confusion and sympathy when it comes to this subject.
Nevertheless, for me personally 9/11 has changed a few things in my life, whether it is for the good or worse, that is something only fate will tell me. As I have explained in my profile that I wanted to be an airline pilot in my youth, and just when the airline industry was booming in the early 21st century, then these attacks happened. Right after the attacks happened, most western airlines (like British Airways, American Airlines, and others) started losing revenue, and oil prices soared to a high. Many other airlines even went bankrupt (Ansett Australia, Sabena, Swiss Air, VARIG Brazilian, VIAZA Venezuela, Olympic Airways, AOM, and many others). With all of this chaos in the airline industry, my childhood dream of becoming an airline pilot also died. It took me some time to come to terms with this fact, but there was a point when I had just up regretting this and just moved on in life. Then there were the stories of some of my friends who had Arabic names, and even though they had a fully qualified Airline Transport Pilots License (ATPL), but still they were denied any job opportunities because of their name (even though they were American or British born). I recall speaking to a mate of mine who was a fully qualified airline pilot (flew the Boeing 737-300), but could not get a job and was constantly stopped by airport security. He had the final straw when airport security confiscated his pilot’s flight case. Understandably, in a very emotional state, he told me that he had given up his career as an airline pilot.
Perhaps no other industry was as immediately affected by the devastating events of September 11th as the airline industry. Apart from the passengers and airline crews who lost their lives on that day many airlines simply shut down. Of those that managed through the crisis-filled days and months that followed, tens of thousands of airline employees lost their jobs. Most airlines immediately put a stop to their sponsored cadet pilot scheme because of this.
When the attacks happened, I was a 22-year-old student in London, and at that exact moment, I was in Kingston, London (U.K.), working as an intern with the retailer TJMaxx. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon with clear blue skies, and I had just finished my lunch. Then suddenly my manager turned into the staff room and said: 'Oh, we just heard that two fighter planes have crashed into the World Trade Centres in New York'. The details were very sketchy at that moment. It only started to become apparent in the late afternoon and evening when I got home and watched the news. The saddest (and scariest) feeling I got when I saw that plane American Airlines Boeing 767 aircraft smash right into the tower. It seemed so unreal and inhuman. Buildings, resources, and planes can be rebuilt after a time, but PEOPLE cannot be replaced. My instant feeling was 'what idiot wants to do that?'. A passenger plane is not meant to be a missile or a weapon, and to use a beautiful thing such as a plane to kill innocent people is just evil and ridiculously inhuman. There was a strong sense of sadness, anger, confusion, and sheer fear in my mind on that day.
I do remember seeing a few changes in London immediately after the attacks happened. The most apparent one was that there were no planes seen over the capital. The London airspace was completely empty. It felt very surreal because the skies over London are usually noisy and filled with many planes waiting to land at Heathrow Airport (there are four holding points: Biggin Hill, Lambourne, Bovingdon, and Ockham). At peak time in the evenings, it is common to see at least 30 aircraft in the London sky, twinkling as if they are little stars at night- all waiting in turn to land at Heathrow (or Gatwick, London City, Stansted, or Luton). As I listened to the Air Traffic Control (ATC) on my VHF radio, all I heard was planes being re-directed back to their points of origin, or being diverted to airfields in safer places such as Ireland, Birmingham, Manchester, or Scotland. Flights at Heathrow and Gatwick that were due to depart were cancelled at the last minute and planes return to the terminals. Indeed what a crazy day it was. I have never had the chance to go to the U.S.A, and I hope one day I can go to New York to pay homage to the site, and respects to those victims who lost their lives where once those iconic towers stood in tact.
9/11 was definitely a day that changed the world over, and we can only hope that with such harsh times in life, future humankind never experiences anything like this atrocity ever again. May god bless all those innocent souls that lost their lives on this day 10 years ago. Amen.
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