On this five year anniversary of 9/11, I’m sure most people are remembering where they were, what they were doing, and who they were with on September 11, 2001.
On 9/11, I was living in Turkey. I remember that it was about 3:00 p.m. and I was walking down a busy Istanbul street on my way to a popular shopping area with my friend Elizabeth. There wasn’t anything out of the ordinary that day, other than the “normal” of everyday life overseas…constantly speaking and thinking in a foreign language, practicing care to not look men in the eyes (important in a Muslim culture), and smiling at the beggar children who always followed us down city streets asking for money.
My cell phone rang and an American friend who also lived in Istanbul said, “Hey there’s something going on in New York. I’m watching CNN and it looks like the whole city is on fire.” “Okay, Clay,” I said. “Thanks for calling.” Then I hung up and was actually annoyed that he would interrupt my path to the mall with news of a fire thousands of miles away in New York. Within fifteen minutes, he called again and said, “Nicole, as soon as you guys get to the mall, you need to find a department store with a television. You won’t believe it. There’s been a terrorist attack in New York and this is big.”
We sped up our pace to the mall and immediately went to the electronics department of the biggest store we could find. Without asking, we switched the channel from a Turkish soap opera to CNN in English. Then we saw the pictures of the towers – both smoking by this point. I stood about a foot from the TV in disbelief and I remember thinking that my mouth simply wouldn’t close. It felt frozen in shock. Within minutes, the Turks standing around us took notice of what was happening on the screen. This was the first they had seen of the news, and a crowd gathered around the television. They began to say in Turkish, “Change it to Turkish! I can’t understand English!” So they switched the channel and the reporting was now by a Turkish reporter, displaying the same images we’d just seen of the towers.
My cell phone rang again and I heard my mom’s voice. I couldn’t help but break down and cry. “Mom, what’s happening?” “Are you okay? Where are you? What are you doing?” She asked a million questions and I remember saying to her, “Mom, you’re in America, not me. Nothing is happening here. It’s happening there!” I remember her saying at the end of our conversation “The day is not over yet.” Then it hit me that it was early morning in the U.S. and she was right. Who knew what the rest of the day held?
The next few days we (me, Elizabeth, and other Americans living in the city) were sort of in a holding pattern. I remember our company issuing plans with all kinds of scenarios and emergency plans to evacuate if that was necessary. We sat glued to CNN all day for three days.
Things I remember most about those days:
1. I felt helpless.
2. I cried a lot.
3. I didn’t want to go back to work when things began to settle down.
4. I wanted my mom.
5. I prayed non-stop for the families who had lost people they loved.
I also remember my Turkish neighbors and friends who expressed so much concern for Americans and sadness at such a cowardly act of terrorism. They really were sympathetic. One neighbor even broke down in tears when she was telling me how sorry she was for our loss. Turkish people (and much of the rest of the world) understand the effects of terrorism. They have lived with it as long as they can remember and stand alongside anyone else who is affected by its devastation. I also remember many of them saying “This is NOT the way of Islam.” They were heartbroken that now Islam had been the basis for such an act of terrorism.
It’s been a long five years. This is not the place to comment on the state of things now. But it is a place to share a story and hope that many others, on this day, will remember that our world is broken. It is in need of redemption. My faith in Jesus Christ tells me the kind of redemption that’s needed can only come through Him. If anyone does, He understands betrayal, pain, surrender, and ultimate victory over evil. In Him, there is goodness, hope, healing, and salvation for all people on earth. May we be reminded of those things today…
Rarely do I use this blog for entries like these because it seems like more of personal journal entry than something to be public. But, in this case, it is part of me seeking to identify with other people’s experiences on that day and offer a word of hope, even on a day that is very solemn for many Americans.