My Memories of 9/11

I was living with my family in rural China where I worked as an English teacher in a high school. One morning, I woke up, ate breakfast, joked and talked with the kids, and then went to check the Internet.

Most western news sites on the Internet were blocked at that time, but I had discovered that I could at least see the headlines if I went to my page on Yahoo, and so that was my Netscape homepage. I opened up the browser, and was shocked to see in the headlines that both towers of the World Trade Center had been destroyed, possibly in a terrorist attack. I did not have time to do much more than check the headlines before I had to run off to class.

Our apartment was some blocks from the main campus of the school, so I had about a fifteen minute walk. Still in shock and in a daze, I took the wrong road at the roundabout and found myself in an unfamiliar neighborhood. I had to retrace my steps, and arrived at school after class had already begun.

Since the school had foreign teachers, it had applied for permission to have satellite reception for CNN and BBC so that we could watch the news in our apartments. However, school administrators had neglected to give us foreign teachers access to the satellite feed in our homes, but had instead hooked it up to the school so that they could use it themselves, making it off-limits to foreign teachers and the students. Nevertheless, given events, when I entered the classroom the TV was turned to CNN so that the students could see what had happened.

To them, it was a festive occasion. They were joyously running up and down the classroom, celebrating and having a party. I turned off the TV and scolded them. At that point, no one knew how many casualties there had been–estimates ranged up into the tens of thousands. All of these were innocent people, and as far as we knew, some of these victims could have even been Chinese (in fact, about 80 of them were). This was nothing to celebrate about. The class appeared chastened, and we turned to our English study.

In the days that followed, a DVD on 9/11 was issued with the blessings of the Chinese government, showing clips of the disaster interspersed with scenes from a recent movie of Godzilla ravaging New York, and commentary from Chinese newscasters celebrating that America had been cut down to size. It is said that Chinese leader Jiang Zemin had a copy of this DVD, and played it over and over again for himself at night, as though it were some sort of porn film.

That was fourteen years ago.

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