On 11 September, 2001, Warren and I were hanging out in the flat my dad and I shared in Croydon—not studying, definitely eating. The TV was on, probably because we were just about to battle those badass mother-sucking Alien spawn on PlayStation. I was in the kitchen, Warren was in the lounge (it was an open plan situation); whatever station that had been idling on screen had switched to a special broadcast. Catastrophe.
The mixture of shock and disbelief in Warren’s voice as he expelled “What the…?” drew me to the image on screen. The first tower was burning. We just stood—staring (deathly still) as we listened to the reporter without hearing a single word. And then the second plane hit. There are no words. This was not a kind of violence with which we were familiar. This was something other. We were gripped—whatever food or Alien mother-sucker we had planned on decimating in the time that ensued, had been overridden by the tragedy unfolding in front of our eyes; people’s lives destroyed, second by vicious second. Should we have watched? I don’t know. The whole thing was so surreal.
I was 19 years old when the twin towers fell and the world changed. It’s not a day you forget—even from a small flat in suburban South Africa. Twenty years later, it is still unfathomable. I’ve lived in a violent society, the morale of which is slowly being eroded by lawlessness and an overall lack in value for the sanctity of human life. But it makes sense. There is a history of violence here. There is poverty. Extreme poverty. Substance abuse and lack of education. There is egotism and embezzlement; mismanagement and misdemeanour. There is anger. Not just anger but rage. And even hate. People have been disregarded and mistreated. And the cycle, race-regardless continues—white on black, black on white, white on white, people on people.
Of course there is violence, crime and apathy elsewhere in the world. But 9/11. Even the inner-city violence in London (knife crime, muggings, theft)—it’s logical; there is gangsterism and poverty and the breakdown of family…
I guess, I know only what I have lived—and even that I can barely claim to know. What I do understand though, and what 9/11 reiterated, is that people are people no matter where they’ve lived; with the same propensity for bad, if exposed to the right triggers.
Author & Storyteller: Andrea Zanin
Andrea is a writer, wife, mother and dreamer; also the author of this website. She moved to London in 2006 to earn £s, travel, see bands and buy 24-up Dr Martens—which she did, and then ended up staying. Andrea lives in North London with her husband (also a Saffa) and five children. She loves this grand old city but misses her home and wishes her children could say “lekker” (like a South African) and knew what a “khoki” is.
Photo by Dominik Pearce on Unsplash