New York Twin Towers MemorialI didn’t wake up this morning thinking I would write a post on 9/11. I don’t like anniversaries, especially not this one. And then I started writing, despite I had other things to do, because when an event changes the world on such a wide scale, even after 14 years you can’t  help thinking about it.

I remember perfectly where I was when the news first reached me. I was in Paris, buying a chocolate crepe at a corner-store with my dear friend, when another friend called me from the States to warn me about what was happening. I was 18, fresh out of high school, and not prone to taking things seriously.

“A plane crashed into one of the towers?” I said. “You mean a small tourist plane? How could the pilot not see it? Was he drunk?”. And then when confused news came in about another plane, I wondered if two planes had collided and then fallen on the Twin Towers. I was thinking of a sad, stupid accident.

Then we returned to the hotel and turned on the TV and CNN. We were in a small hotel packed with American tourists. What I remember of those hours is the silence. It was like all the normal sounds of human activity had ceased, and the only noise echoing in the empty corridors was the blaring sound of the news reports coming from all the rooms.

I had booked our flights to return to Rome on the 15th of September. We never boarded that flight. In the climate of fear and uncertainty after what had happened, my parents came to pick us up and drove us all the way back from Paris to Rome. We were lucky, compared to all the tourists who were actually stranded in the hotel and could not return home, because the air space had been closed.

I remember worried phone calls with my grandmother and my family in San Francisco, and the struggle to remain rational even when you have the feeling that the world as you know it is collapsing. Which was true.

Everything has changed since 9/11, and certainly not for the better. Before that date we enjoyed simplicity and freedoms we have now lost. Our Western culture was not tainted by a resurgent ideology of torture that was the sad consequence of these events, and the very idea of the existence of something like Guantanamo Bay was a vague dystopian nightmare.

On 9/11 I think about the doubts we have about what really happened, about the truth we all deserve (more than anyone, all the families that lost loved ones): and I think about what we have lost, because it is our duty to work for it again.

We lost the idea of being at peace with our fellow human neighbors, and walls have sprung ever since to keep us apart. But I’m not giving up on the idea of peaceful coexistence.