September 11, 2001 was just another day-in-the-life for me; I was sweating in the Namibian spring sunshine, building on my house.
I vaguely knew about Al-Qaeda because of the US embassy bombings in East Africa and the attack on the USS Cole. In my mind New York was just another termite mound, irrelevant in my world. The Twin Towers? ... I wasn't even aware of their existence.
I remember feeling thirsty and going inside to take a break and make a cup of tea.
Waiting for the water to boil, I switched on the TV and flicked through the channels to CNN - on the screen was a live image of a skyscraper with smoke billowing from it, the news anchor reporting that an aircraft had hit the building. An unfortunate aviation accident? I was about to go outside again when another aircraft crashed into the other tower. WTF was going on here? From that moment I was transfixed, all thoughts of work forgotten.
Someone was attacking the United States. Reports of hijackings, an aircraft crashing into the Pentagon, people jumping to escape the flames, repeated footage of the aircraft hitting the building, news anchors openly crying and - the ultimate horror - the two towers collapsing. People were dying live before my eyes, ... I was stunned and can't describe my emotions.
Later, I went online to my favorite chat room to offer condolences to my American friends. One of them said "It's no big deal". NO-FUCKING-BIG-DEAL? I couldn't believe his nonchalance - hundreds, perhaps thousands, of his fellow countrymen had just died a horrible death. No big deal? ... I had no response.
A lady asked me in private conversation "Why does the world hate America so much?". My first impulse was to say "Because of what they see on the Jerry Springer Show" ... but no, that would have been absurd ... instead I just replied "I don't know".
Eventually I went to bed and slipped into a troubled sleep. Sometime during the night I half-awoke; the wind was blowing hard outside and, in that otherworld between dreaming and consciousness, I knew it was the spirits of the dead wailing through the trees ...