No Island is an Island

Many words have been spoken and written about the September 11thtragedy, and just as many tears have been cried since then. Every single person's life will forever be altered. There isn't much that one can say to describe the magnitude of the tragedy; even seeing is not believing. But here are the thoughts and feelings of some students of the University of Scranton, just two hours away from New York City, about that fateful day.

Sean Paul: Shock [...] I couldn't function as normal for a few days. Everywhere I went, every conversation, every feeling, every meal, every shower, everything about life was blanketed by this horrific awe at the terrorist attacks. I wasn't scared at first, but one night I lay in bed and actually wondered if the end of the world was coming, and I can tell you, I was scared for the first time in my life about death. That night I prayed to God like I had never before. I asked Him to give us another chance and to let us go on longer and assured Him and myself that we could do better. [...] But if there is one thing I have learned through this, and one overall feeling that I found in myself amidst this experience, it is love. Love of my fellow Americans, even the ones I don't know at all, like the ones in the WTC that perished. I realized that love really binds us all together and that is why I cried for them the way I did and that is why I am happy to see so many Americans coming together as one country like we have never come together before. But the feeling of love I have grows stronger for everyone, especially the people of Afghanistan who are being oppressed, and for the people who are being ill-treated even in our own country because of their ethnicity or nationality. I have a new awareness of life in general and how important it is. Peace be with all of you, and Love.

Alison: I've lived in New York City all of my life and my home will never be the same. [...] My aunt lives next door to us in the city. She was on her terrace on the 19th floor when she saw the second plane hit the towers. Here I was in Scranton, helpless and frightened, watching it on TV collapse. As it collapsed, so did my sense of security. [...] I went home the following weekend to see my neighborhood, which was declared a disaster area. I looked out my window at night and saw a scene that was unreal. It looked like a war zone. I heard endless stories from friends about people they knew and how they are terrified every time they hear an airplane fly overhead. I have hope that my city will rebuild the towers and prove to the world that we are survivors and will not be disheartened by cowardly acts of terrorism.

MJ: It has destroyed more than just buildings; it has destroyed families, and feelings of security. [...] This has hit me really personally. My cousin is one of the heroes who gave their life to this tragedy. He was a firefighter who was killed when the first building collapsed. I just went to the memorial service yesterday, and it was really hard. He was only 39, and left behind a wife and two beautiful sons (four and six years old). I think the hardest thing is to look at them and know that they don't have a daddy anymore.

Megan: My little sister is a musical theater freshman in Manhattan. [...] She has dreamed of being on Broadway her whole life. But the Broadway shows have closed for the time being. There's still a constant flow of funeral processions passing her building daily. This was not the New York she had planned for.

Molly: I just hope that the tragedy will encourage people of all diversities to seek first to understand. Pointing fingers and placing blame will only perpetuate the cycle of hate.

Reactions from some World of English Writers

Those brave rescue workers in NYC and DC put aside all regard for themselves, acted above and beyond the call of duty and in so doing gave definition to patriotism, bravery and strength, and thus elevated us all...

- Staƛ Wnukowski

The attack on the World Trade Center has united the American people as they have not been since World War II. Most amazingly, it has brought New York City close to the rest of America.

The island of Manhattan has always stood alone. America's Hong Kong, rich, vain, expensive, disdainful of the "Heartland" as New Yorkers jokingly referred to the vast areas stretching across the continent (also known as the "flyover states," because you flew over them on your way from New York to Los Angeles). The attack has humbled New York.

We didn't know the people in the buildings, but we all knew the buildings. It's a devastated landscape there without the Twin Towers of Babel.

- Christopher Smith

My wife and I were watching a video when my sister-in-law called to tell us to turn on the news right away. We saw the smoking towers of the World Trade Center. I said, "It's terrorism. One could be an accident but not both." We watched as the towers fell and clouds of dust covered the city.

In 1997 I gave a presentation at the Ethnographic Museum in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, entitled "Weapons Technology and Culture: is the World Becoming the Balkans?" My thesis was that modern technology makes it possible for small groups of people to acquire or manufacture weapons of terrifying destructive power. Any airplane becomes a missile when piloted by a man willing to die. It gives me no pleasure to be proved right. The world will never be the same again. We have learned that there are no longer any safe places.

- Stephen Browne

Nineteen days later we finally made our way over to the Pentagon. We parked the car near all the other cars now lined up at Washington's newest tourist attraction. We walked from the car to the makeshift viewing site and I sat quietly while my boyfriend shot pictures.

The gaping hole bordered by burnt walls leaps out at you. Tears come, as they have for the past weeks. I pick up a piece of scrap metal, stamped with the words "Bristol, England". A memento, or just another piece of junk? I leave it, and the sight of the hole as well, just too difficult to gaze at for too long.

Back by the cars, we cross the street to the impromptu memorial site. It includes a board with pictures, flowers, messages and prayers. One photo of the damage had a note attached - email so and so if you want a copy - I was tempted, but let it go. We have enough pictures of this tragedy.

Below the board, on the ground in front, lie wreaths, laminated pictures of someone who died, tiny American flags stuck into the grass. Some of the flowers are long dead, burnt by the hot autumn sun Washington is so fortunate to enjoy each September. Children carefully enter this pseudo-graveyard, straightening up, fixing this and that. As I watch, again the tears come.

We leave, stopping once more to take a close up picture of the Pentagon. The damage done is not great - if you approach from any other side you cannot see it. All looks normal. With deep regret, we now know that's no longer true.

- Karolyn Andrews