I was sitting on my bed and reading a journal paper, laptop beside me with at least some 10 tabs open. One of them being NDTV. It was 11:45 at night and sleep was just showing its first signs after all that cycling and exercise. I casually clicked on the tab to glance at the latest news and the world now knows what I saw. The mastermind, supercriminal and most wanted fugitive who managed to evade the mighty US forces for a decade was now dead. It brought back memories of 9/11, an experience that I would never ever forget.
Cut to 2001, warm summer Chennai evening. Mom doing her puja, I had just returned from play with Whisky and was giving him some water. The phone rang asking for my sister’s phone number in US. She worked in NY on the 78th Floor of the WTC North tower. It must be around 7pm. I ran upstairs, booted that ancient computer and gave the number. Then another call came and another. I wondered why so many people were suddenly asking her number. My mom got suspicious and asked the latest caller, must be atleast the 20th that evening. She hastily told “Nothing Aunty, official work”. Dad was home and eating dinner. I was now upstairs playing with whisky in my room. And then one of my sister’s closest friends called and told. “Uncle, turn on the TV”.
The next three hours were the most horrific of my life. Even as I type this, 10 years on, I can hear my parents scream in horror, the disbelief that something so awful can unfold and that my very sister is there under attack. Images that I never want to see again, but unfortunately captured by my brain flashed past me as I muttered “No, no nothing can ever happen to her. She’ll be fine.” With no calls being answered and the ultimate collapse of the towers, my parents lost hope. I could not believe what I was watching and was hoping against hope. I remember being so blank that nothing was entering my mind or getting processed. Amidst all the tears, the witch like boss of my sister announced over the phone. “We’ll let you know one way or the other”. One way or the other? What does she mean? How inhuman can one get, I wondered.
At 2 am, the phone rang. It was a long call, the ISD variety. I picked up the phone,heart thumping so loud I think the caller could hear and heard the voice that made me realize the value of life in an instant. Silence (time delay) followed as I barely muttered “Hello!”, I heard finally ” Chotu?” It was my sister. That instant is one I will never forget in my life. Ever. I could not say anything more and passed on the phone to my mother, who was in tears. We hugged each other and smiled. Whisky jumping around in happiness, confused and tired but happy nevertheless. The cold dinner was warmed up and eaten at last, hunger returning out of giddy relief. It was past 3 am.
For the next few months, horrific images flashed across the world with unbelievable headlines swamped across the front pages of The Hindu. It has been a long battle, the pain of loss easing a little, but never being forgotten. I know how hard it must be for thousands of people who lost their near and dear that fateful day.
I came back to reality, listening to the White House briefing. I smiled in happiness. “Finally! “I said to myself and thanked God for his blessings, the gift of life ,family and my sister once again. This is a day I wont forget. Just like the one 10 years ago.