It was another ordinary day of teaching to do. I got to work at 8:45 so I could make copies and set up the classroom for the day's lessons. Two Spanish students had just returned from a trip to New York and had pictures with them. We saw them in Times Square, the Statue of Liberty and atop the twin towers. I thought about the times I had visited that rooftop platform, the view, the immensity of the humanity below. After two hours of grammar, we took a short break before the conversation workshop began. I had five minutes to run outside and smoke and run through in my head the activities I had planned for the next two classroom hours. I was pacing on the sidewalk when a taxi pulled up to the curb and dropped a young man off. He ran up to me and said:
"Did you hear about the twin towers? They're gone!"
"Two planes hit the towers and they collapsed!"
"Why are you telling me this, it's not funny."
"Seriously, man! I just heard it on the radio in the taxi. We're under attack by terrorists."
The young man ran off. I didn't know what to think. I thought he was just another crazy stalking downtown. Though he was in a taxi. Shit, I can't think about this, I've got a class to teach.
I went back upstairs and found all the students huddled around a radio, listening. My heart sunk. No, no no. And I sat and listened to the frenetic reports being aired. After an hour, we all talked about it. Some students weren't surprised, the US had it coming. The two Spaniards were stricken, their faces drained of colour. Mostly we all felt insecure, most of us far from our families (the students were from abroad) and the threat of further attack shook us all.
Finally, at 1pm, I left work and walked down Ste Catherine street dazed and saddened when I came upon a crowd assembled at the corner of Peel. A la Times Square, there was a large electric billboard above the intersection with CNN being broadcast. It was there that I saw the images come to life of what I had only heard about until then. For 45 minutes I stood there, sensing the sea change in the world, mourning. There was no sound, but the images were riveting.
Then I went home and watched tv just like the rest of the world. I kept thinking, "why do they hate us so much" and "what have we done to engender such hatred, and how can we repair it?" I mean c'mon, it takes two to tango.
In my weaker moments, I might have thought, "let's bomb the hell out of the arabs".
But mostly, I felt overwhelming sadness.