Earlier this month, America honored the victims of the 9/11 terror attacks. A decade after the horrifying events, the wounds still seems fresh and open. You could see the pain in the eyes of family members, friends and loved ones of the victims as they tenderly touched the Ground Zero memorial. As someone who was not personally affected by the tragedy, it is hard for me to imagine what that loss feels like or what it is like to deal with the loss of a loved one who has died in such a horrific manner. My words of sympathy and condolence may seem hollow, but they are sincere.
On the afternoon of September 11, 2001, I was at home after a boring day at school. A second year student of Computer Applications at Lord Buddha College in Kathmandu, I was the embodiment of what they call “nerdy”: big glasses, long hair and no life outside books. My knowledge and understanding of the outside world and its issues was pretty limited.
As I turned on the TV, the regular shows were interrupted for breaking news from New York. On CNN, live images of the planes hitting the Twin Towers were shown, and I was floored. At first I thought, what a horrible tragedy. Then when the second plane hit, I thought, is this a war? I was shaking with fear. My dad, a retired army man, tried to reason with me but I was convinced that America was under attack and a war had begun.
Until then I had no idea about terrorism or Al Qaeda or why America has so many enemies. My understanding of the world changed in few minutes, and I was faced with a lot of ugliness and hate. And I must admit that for many months after I too was consumed with hate and anger.
I was angry with the world and did not feel safe. I would ask myself again and again if this can happen in America, who then is safe?
Nepal was dealing with a very violent Maoist insurgency at that time and just three months before the 9/11 attacks the then King Birendra and his family were massacred by the then Crown Prince Deependra. It was a very stressful time and images of flaming buildings, people jumping off skyscrapers to save their lives, firefighters covered in dust, and picture after pictures of people in extreme distress only added to my anxiety.
I tried to find answers online but that was a big mistake. Instead of learning from knowledgeable, trusted sources, I read negative comments and very biased analysis of ill informed trolls. In that moment of anger and confusion, strong rhetoric seemed more attractive than calm explanations.
Now I look back at those dark days and feel sorry for how I reacted. I allowed hate to build in my soul. It took me many years to get over that negativity, but there are many other people still struggling with raw emotions and slanted views. Such negativity breeds hate and is a barrier towards building a more peaceful world.
Bridging that gap with love, understanding and mutual respect is the best way to honor the victims on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.