On the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, we look back to a time that changed our world. New America Media has a collection of stories about 9/11 that puts an Asian American face to the tragedy. Read it here.
I distinctly remember where I was when I found out about the World Trade Center. I had given up a career in law — the cushy office in a downtown high-rise, the buttoned-up suits, the stop-and-go commute, the ridiculously long hours — and spent a year satisfying some seriously pent-up wanderlust. That led to a job working in South Korea as a travel writer. I had been in Seoul for three months, eking out a living (albeit, a dream-come-true sort of living) in a tiny one-room room (to say “studio” would be far too generous). On September 12 (Korea is 19 hours ahead of New York), as was my routine, I woke up, reached over, and turned on the TV. (Yes, the TV was that close.) My TV was usually set to AFN, the English language channel serving the U.S. armed forces in Korea, which featured all the popular shows from the States, including the Today Show. Except instead of greeting the morning with the familiar voices of Katie and Matt, there was some odd movie on. Some movie about a plane crashing into a tall building. Such action-packed fare is usually reserved for the evening hours. A glitch in the programming, I thought.
It took a few seconds to sink in. Still only half-awake, I realized this was no glitch. No error in programming. This was the Today Show. And this was real.
I remember taking the bus to work. I looked around at the faces around me, dismayed and confused that my fellow commuters seemed as placid as usual. Did no one hear the news? Why weren’t there broadcasts blaring, why weren’t people stopped stunned on the street, why wasn’t there some sort of physical manifestation of the fact that the entire world had gone mad?
I almost ran into my all-Korean employee office, needing to share and talk and grieve with people I knew. “Did you hear what happened?” I burst out. Everyone seemed so normal. Maybe no one’s heard?
A co-worker — a friend — nodded. They had heard. They knew. And they were so calm.
“Now you guys know what it feels like,” was all he said.
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