There are events that change the world in a profound way that the question that one often gets asked in social conversations is :what were you doing, where were you when it happened?
Well, on the evening of September 11, 2001, I had just come home from a soccer game with my friends and I happened to switch on our TV set for the 7 pm evening news.
But rather than our local diet of local news, the state broadcaster was relaying to us news of catastrophic attacks in far away New York that had spectacularly brought down the highest buildings in the world.
The images that flooded our TV set of the striking events of that day here in New York, barely two kilometres away from the Hilton Midtown Hotel where I am now writing this blog, brought back dark memories to the minds of many Kenyans.
Two years before, in August 1998, Al Qaeda had announced its bloody arrival at the international stage with a devastating attack on U.S embassies in Nairobi and Tanzania that claimed nearly 250 lives in total.
To me the attack in Nairobi was significant for a personal reason- my mom had just left a government building adjacent to the embassy just ten minutes before the attackers struck.
And so every time I saw the images of the Nairobi attacks I saw how close I had come to losing her. And perhaps it is this thought that drew me closely to the 9/11 attacks here in New York.
These events both here in the US and in Kenya, happening so far from one another yet intricately linked toghether by the thread of international terrorism, I believe have sub-consciously driven me towards a need to deeply understand terrorism and terrorists.
And so today, in the week marking the 14 th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I visited for the first time the site where the two towers once stood majestically over the New York skyline the and the museum that documents the horrors and heroics of that day.
The site looks different- two gentle pools now stand in the site where the two towers stood. I could not quite reconcile the tragic image of the gigantic towers crumbling to their foundations and these two soothing, calm pools.
But inside the museum, the magnitude of the horrors of that day were brought to life once again. The story of that day was told through the remnants of the building, including two huge steel beams that once supported the northern tower but which gave in after the building burned for 102 minutes.
The other much enlightening story of it, the story of men and women who sacrificed their lives to save their fellow men was told in the things they left behind- a fireman’s helmet and burned fire trucks, the pick axe of a desperate volunteer or the brief case of an innocent victim who had not the slightest inkling of what awaited him.
Every person has a bucket list- mine was to see where those two towers once stood and what stands in their place now. Only then could I fully comprehend the scope and magnitude of what took place those 14 years
As I walked out of the 9/11 museum, I gazed up at the shining One World Trade Centre which replaced the twin towers (I had to take a ferry to Staten Island to ascertain its dominance over the Manhattan skyline) and I saw a people’s astute resolve in the face of adversity.
I went away from the memorial grounds ever more aware of what hate and intolerance can do. But more importantly, I went away with a renewed believe in humanity to overcome such.