THE AFTERMATH: An aerial view shows only a small portion of the crime scene where the World Trade Center collapsed following the September 11 terrorist attack. Photo: Eric J. Tilford/US Navy
1. "I don't remember where I was at the time it happened but remember discussing it with my boyfriend in the evening. I think we didn't realise the dimensions of it at the time; we were talking about democracy and how it is too small a world for too different people. At that time I didn't know about all the victims, all the individual tragedies.
When it comes to terrorism and innocent people dying, I am not sure I know who is to blame, it goes much deeper than one organisation. I can't say 9/11 has changed my attitudes to travel, or to anything else, though." Bulgarian, now aged 36.
2. "It was a sunny afternoon in Sofia. We were busy into ushering some guests home when that background companion, the TV, suddenly showed the notorious horror scene with the CNN LIVE sign tagged on it. My first thought was that it was too early for a Godzilla-type movie. To make sure it was all for real, we started switching through channels. The same horror movie ran there, too.
Ten years later, when there are no second thoughts that the US was attacked for real and myriads of apocalyptic theories deluged public space, I am still unsure who the culprit is, nor what the true reasons behind this daunting move are. Yet I do know the effects: Nato has earned its new arch-enemy in the face of radical Islam, the schism between Christians and Muslims has widened, the threat of a repeat has put even the security services of countries regarded a safe haven on constant alert.
Do I fret about it? I don't think so. Yes, it is part of the same blood-drenched game being played throughout the 20th century, just the rules have been slightly changed for a shift from the World War 2 and Cold War to the Evil Axis deployment. But, also yes, there is an enduring global push to safeguard the planet from enduring conflicts. This makes me feel safe." Bulgarian, now aged 34.
3. "On the morning of September 11 2001 I was someone else. I was Auden’s someone else who is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along, a ship that had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on while a boy fell out of the sky.
I did not learn of the tragedy until I got to the office at about 1pm eastern time. By then, the US had locked hands and hearts in shock and grief and fear. The 'patriotism' of the post-9/11 rhetoric was beginning to solidify even in those first hours. People spoke of the attacks as an assault on America and American people, to which, I was stunned to realise, I did not belong.
I was lonely that day, frustrated. I wanted, needed to partake in the grief, but it was shrouded in stars and stripes, and that cast me outside the circle. The tragedy was quickly becoming more national than human, and here I was, my social security card tucked behind the credit cards in my wallet, the key to my Bush and Mason apartment in my pocket, fluent, employed, adjusted, perfectly assimilated, and yet not an American.
Any insecurity I might have felt in public spaces was outweighed by the discomfort of being all too well policed at those places." Bulgarian then living in the US, now aged 33
4. "I was in the university canteen. We saw the second plane smash live. When the first plane smashed we were in a lecture and the entire class was suspended. Eventually most lectures were cancelled and everyone watched TV all day long. It has made me a lot more suspicious of radical Islam and it has made me more insecure about airports and some public places. Yet it has also made me more suspicious of Western politics." Bulgarian then studying in Athens, now aged 32.
5. I was 16. I was in a coffee shop in Plovdiv which was the regular place of meeting my group of friends (about 15 of us) – I found out from a friend who charged in hysterical because she wasn't able to get in touch with her sister, who lived in NY, after the first news were released.
Initial reaction – all of us were absolutely stunned, couldn't believe it, it was surreal. My first thought 'The world has gone mental'. After having time to actually process it my concerns concentrated on what was to follow – I felt what had happened was going to unleash a chain of horrific events – as it happened.
Am I more suspicious of Islamic radicals? Not really. You forget my people were under Ottoman yoke for quite a while – we have ALWAYS been suspicious of them. My opinion: historically a major factor in the Ottoman invasion's success was the fanaticism they invested in their religion as a common cause. Fairly, the bigger factor was the separative efforts and the shattered organisation on the Balkans – but we have to blame someone and it can't be ourselves! And also I am a woman – what woman in her right mind feels Islam is a nice view of the world?!
I'm no more insecure at airports and public places than I was. Who cares about how Bulgaria feels about the Middle East? It's not like Boiko (Borissov) has a say in global politics. So, in good old Bulgaria we trust and feel safe. In terms of airports in particular – don't travel to 'the land of all evil', and as to European airports, yes, it makes me a little annoyed all the 'necessary measures to keep me safe' but hey-ho.
Who is to blame for 9/11? Oh, Osama bin Laden – definitely – if George W Bush said so, it is so – we all know what a brilliant mind he is. Seriously, after all the speculations and insinuations in the months and years to follow, who knows?
If anybody actually thought that killing innocent people is the way to stop Western policymakers, well, they are obviously too smart for me. If only the American president cared for the common people... if only he realised they had the money they invested in the 21st century wars beforehand... they could have settled their national debt, provided free education for every American child, free health care for the nation, ended poverty in the US. If only His Presidential "I'm the king of the world" Highness George W Bush had cared for the little guy..." Bulgarian, now aged 26.
6. "I was at home. A friend of mine called me telling me to turn on my TV because 'a plane crashed in a building' in NYC. We (me and my family) spent the rest of the day watching CNN and BNT. We were shocked, it was like a Hollywood movie, it felt strange and horrifying. However this event has not changed the way I feel at airports.Yet I have only travelled across Europe." Bulgarian, now aged 26
7. "I was walking home when I saw an image on the TV of a plane hitting a building. At first I thought it was a Bruce Willis movie or something like that. Then when I turned on the TV the truth hit me. The horror of it all was somehow beyond belief. We knew that nothing would ever be the same again, that Bush would use 9/11 as a pretext for escalating conflicts overseas, that airport security – at least in the short term – would become unbearable.
The big surprise was that the event did not actually generate much pro-American sentiment. Some people tried to explain the motivation of the attackers by pointing to American 'crimes'. The US ambassador was heckled on BBC's Question Time and the events spawned books and articles on the lines of 'why America is hated'. Perhaps my most abiding image of the event is that of 'jumpers', people falling to the deaths from the towers. A horrible death. I don't like heights anyways and don't think I could ever work in a very tall building.
Some people believed that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was behind the attack – in particular Israel and US policy towards the region was the 'reason' for the anti-US feeling. There was a belief in certain quarters that if only we removed some of the principal actors in the Middle East drama – notably Yasser Arafat and Ariel Sharon – that a way could be found out of the impasse. Ten years on, Arafat is dead, Sharon is comatose, and of course other 'players' (direct and indirect) like Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein (respectively) are also dead and yet it has not made one iota of difference.
The Arab-Israeli conflict has continued. Contrary to popular belief, it's not just a question of removing the principal actors in the drama because it's the world's most intractable and systemic conflict. Merely changing the faces at the negotiating table will not work. A fresh impetus from the outside is desperately needed, perhaps from the EU. Otherwise, we're just building up further problems for the future." Expatriate, now 44.
There is no more eloquent proof of the failure of the September 11 terrorists than the revolutionary changes that have started in the Middle East and North Africa, according to Bulgarian FM Nikolai Mladenov
Sources told US news media on September 10 the information suggests the threat may focus on Washington, DC or New York City. Officials say they suspect three individuals, one a US citizen, entered the US in August intending to attack with a bomb-laden vehicle.
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