Written by Suraj Shah.
When mass death takes place and you’re not there, how does it affect you?
We all saw that something big was going down. It shook the whole world, it stopped everyone in their tracks, yet 9/11 didn’t affect me.
“Where were you when it happened?” is what was often asked following the World Trade Centre disaster, even 10 years on. I was on my industrial placement at the IBM UK head quarters in North Harbour, Portsmouth, England. There was one small ‘play’ room on the floor which had a small TV in it. Almost all my colleagues in that department were gradually getting up to huddle around that room and witness what was taking place, live, on the news reports. I thought it was probably something about a football match, which I didn’t really care much about. But I soon found out what was going on.
As the events unfolded, we all realised how grave the situation really was. Concerns started to rise about whether similar events may take place in England and what we ought to do about it. Some of our colleagues were even concerned that we may have to evacuate our office in Portsmouth in case there was an attempt to blow up IBM’s head office.
Ha! Isn’t it funny how we always try to make it about us?
It didn’t affect me
However, I wasn’t really affected. None of my family or my friends died or were injured in it, so it didn’t affect me. Terror alerts, especially at airports, were set to critical, but I wasn’t flying anywhere, so it didn’t affect me. My possessions weren’t damaged and my work wasn’t delayed. It didn’t affect me. I just saw it on the news and got on with my life.
Same with the tsunamis in Asia in 2004. I was backpacking in India at the time, but it didn’t affect me. I just saw it on the news and got on with my life.
Same with the London riots in 2011. I was living close to where some of the riots took place, but it didn’t affect me. I just saw it on the news and got on with my life.
Far away or just disconnected
When something big happens, and a lot of people die or are harmed, or affected in some major way, how do we respond to it?
I thought I was a compassionate person, but sometimes I do wonder whether I am watching the news with eyes of compassion, or merely with eyes of curiosity and intrigue.
All these events that I witnessed through the news, certainly did happen. A lot of people were hurt. A lot of people have died. Following the 9/11 incident, 3000 children were left without a parent. How can these children ever make sense of it?
It’s an uncertain world with many small and large-scale tragedies taking place daily, and yet all we can do is try to remain calm, connect with those who are grieving, support them as best we can, help move them away from their suffering, and continue to live each day the only way we know how.
(Photo courtesy of Samantha Marx)