19 years ago today an event that shocked the world took place over the skies of New York, Washington and an open field somewhere in Pennylslvania, after the dust cleared over 3000 people including the perpetrators of the attacks died.
It was an event that truly shocked the world and one that shattered the aura of invincibility that surrounded the United States with a death toll higher than that following the Pearl Harbour attacks that forced the United States of America into the second world war.
This writer started the day 19 years ago as an industrial trainee at one of the early giants of journalism in Nigeria and Ibadan, the defunct but then troubled Sketch press limited owned by the Oodua group and publishers of the Sketch titles of newspapers, leaving home and as an enthusiast in all news local or foreign honed under parental guidance,scanning through a small transistor radio that was a constant companion to stay abreast of the news at that time with limited to non existent internet services.
Navigating through the Iwo road end of the town to the Oba Adebimpe axis in Dugbe on the other side of town took 20 minutes and amid heckling by fellow passengers in the Danfo public transport, it was impossible to listen to the news about a plane crashing into one of the twin towers of the world trade center in New York to be followed by another into the second tower about 19 inutes later.
Crossing the road onto the road linking the headquarters of the then Trans International Bank limited and the Ibadan branch of the Central Bank of Nigeria all seems right but still no opportunity to listen to the British Broadcasting Corporation world service radio, with all these playing on the mind stepping into the expansiev but poorly maintained office complex had taken the mind off the radio to the task at hand in the Sunday sketch section that i belonged to under Funsho Fafowora as editor.
I settled into the office while waiting for the editor and others to arrive since it was supposed to be a slow day following from the weekend production a few minutes after i had to go downstairs into the main news room to kill the boredom since that was where the limited internet connectivity existing in Nigeria at that point wasplugged in and the opportunity to read breaking news stories on both the News Agency of Nigeria and the Reuters nachine was too good to miss following the inability to listen to the radio on the way in from home.
The news room was filled as usual with the editor popularly called GOK holding court and with the big television in the news room tuned to the American tv channel, MSNBC, a bizzare spectacle was playing on on tv with the anchor apparently looking confused at the same time sad but talking about a plane crashing ino one of the towers of the world trade center and shockingly announcing a few minutes after that another plane crashed into the second tower, it was a moment steeped in ultimate confusion for both the newscaster and those of us watching from home, yours sincerely was absoluteley dumbfounded.
At that moment the only thought going through the minds of many was how come a plane’s pilot was stupid enough to go and crash into the world trade centre but the second plane brought home the message that this may indeed not be an ordinary crash and may indeed be more than just a case of two stupid pilots only to get another breaking news from Washington that a Boeing airliner also crashed into a part of the Pentagon, the bastion of American power projection and military, it was a sobering moment.
Within a few minutes a report came that another plane had crashed into an open playing field somewhere in Pennyslvania, the information and rumor mill went ino overdrive and the United states initiated protocols to protect its leadership while also grounding all airplanes flying through American airspace.
The ramifications and the perpetrators behind the attacks gradually became clearer that with the airliner that crashed in Pennyslvania said to have been headed for the White House but for the heroism of the passengers who fought the attackers to a standstill leading to the crash and Ala-Qaeda under the leadership of the Saudi Aeabian born former Mujahideen Osama Bin Laden accused of carrying out the attacks, the United States through its then president George w. Bush launched what it described as the War On Terror attacking Afghanistan where the Al Qaeda group and its leader were sheltering and later Iraq to depose dictator Saddam Hussein.
The fallout of these and other decisions still stay with us but for that young industrial trainee of 19 years ago, it was indeed a sobering moment that shows that no country is truly invincible in the face of minds dedicated to perpetrating evil and willing to lose their lives in the process, it was also a moment that the reality that some things that we all think are impossible may not be as we think but sadly the over 3000 that died including the 19 attackers all from Saudi Arabia with the exception of Muhammed Atta an Egyptian who led the plot under the direction of Khalid Sheik Muhammed and ultimately Osama Bin Laden had no second chance at live.
19 years on however it remains a day of shock for one so young while also taking years to understand why people can think and act that way especially in the name of religion just as it is in Nigeria today.