9/11/2001 is a date that the world will always remember. Ground zero still remains an open wound in the heart of New York, like the bitter memories in the hearts of the many families of the victims. But thousands of miles away from the continent the effect of the terror attack was also prominently visible.
I was a child of six years, when the world shook in tune to the vibrations of the falling building. A group of fanatics hijacked four planes and crashed them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Watching the smoke rise from the twin towers, I understood what it was to be afraid for the first time. The falling debris pierced through my bubble of safety, and I watched with horrid fascination as the building slowly crumpled and fell. To my young mind, the scene was similar to the Apocalypse – it was to me The Unimaginable.
Our house was situated near the airport and the sight of passing planes was one common to me. Before the attacks, I used to like watching the air crafts, liked running behind them; I was fascinated by them. But now the same jets had adopted a more sinister meaning for me. For months afterward I would scream and cry with abject terror every time a plane passed above our house. The low drone of its engines became the nightmarish for me, and I couldn’t sleep at night from fear of them crashing into our apartment. I had even packed an emergency backpack to take with me in case of an attack. Till date my parents maintain that they had never before or after seen me as scared as I was during that period. Time heals all wounds, and slowly as I gradually overcame my fear.
A few days ago, my friends and I went shopping during a terror alert imposed over our city. While returning we caught a train from the hapless station Churchgate where during the same month of November another group of terrorists had mercilessly fired on the crowd. I also remembered the blasts in the local trains we were going to alight that had claimed the lives of 209 men and women.
Suddenly a fear like what I hadn’t felt in twelve years made my heart grow cold. Suddenly every grim-faced man with a backpack scared me; every dustbin and every bag seemed to contain a bomb. Terror made my head swim.
But I had to get home, and this was the fastest way. So with bated breath and trembling feet I climbed the train. Looking at the impassive faces of my co-passengers, I wondered why they too were not plagued by the same fears? Or whether they were? Perhaps the listless eyes and poker face was just a mask that concealed a dam of turbulent emotions. But these were common men and women. They had to toil hard to earn their daily bread and no fear (justified or unjustified) can ever act as fetters on their feet. I looked at the children calmly sitting and realized that though the world continues to shake its impact is not as profound, like a train journey – the initial jolt is felt deeply but slowly you cease to notice the unceasing vibrations of the carriage, except as a minor discomfort. Humans are adaptive, resilient. And it is not apathy but long exposure that has hardened us.