By Ian Thorpe
Sept. 22. WE have now all seen the horrific pictures from New York and America, spoken to friends and family about this terrible tragedy and had a tiny amount of time to ponder the inconceivable.
I experienced New York. I'm not happy about the fact that I'm able to write about it today – grateful, but not happy. If not for it, I would now be travelling, mixing a little business with pleasure. My travels were a high priority for me, it gave me a chance to
unwind and let my hair down.
Now as I sit and think about the trip I was to make, it is not important, it doesn't matter. I find it amazing that in the blink of an eye my life changed around me. My thought process changed, as did my priorities. I took a look at my life and what I prioritised as being important … it was
I then thought about what I have put off, and even scarier, what I had put on instead. I think we all delay things until tomorrow, and one day there isn't going to be a tomorrow.
I questioned myself, why? Why did it take me and others around me to experience an event like this to wake up and do what's right for ourselves and those important around us, get back to the important things in life?
I began my travels arriving in New York late Monday evening. The Greek taxi driver who was driving a friend and me to our hotel was bragging about how great the weather had been. Ironically, it started to pour. I don't mind sitting in traffic in New York – it means that without looking like a tourist you can look up at the amazing skyline that towers and engulfs you. New Yorkers don't look up at the buildings.
I awoke early the following morning just in time to go for a run and a walk before my day really got under way. I ran from my hotel from midtown to Central Park, and by the time I got there I was surprised by what an
incredible day it was. I proceeded to run downtown from the park. I then walked (swimmers can't run!). I was feeling the energy of New York, something I can't explain nor could anyone else, without experiencing the city.
I continued to walk further and further downtown. I reached the WTC plaza and looked to the sky in awe. These twin towers were incredible, a defining landmark in the capital of the world.
I walked back to my hotel to get Michelle Flaskas, my manager's wife. We were looking at going to the top of the tower on this particular day.
I had been to the top of the tower, but not on a day like this. I hurried Michelle to get ready to beat all the people and queues. As Michelle got ready, I went back to my room and haphazardly turned on the television, to see one of the twin towers on fire and then the next to be struck by a plane.
I quickly ran to Michelle's room to tell her to turn on the TV, only in time to hear the President announce this disaster as a terrorist attack. We watched in disbelief as these monuments to man burnt and bellowed smoke like two giant chimneys.
I could not fully comprehend that what was on TV was outside my hotel and down the street. It was, in some way, that I was involved in this news broadcast because I was in New York.
New York is usually a brash, harsh place where most people seem single-minded. It is a place which most outsiders could misunderstand without experiencing it.
It is a place where you can be, feel or try to be anything that you want.
I saw a city change. I saw the good that shone from those that are always criticised. New York was like a small country town of millions. People came together, everyone supported one another. Everyone responded to
a disaster with a level of the highest distinction in human nature and love; love for each other, supporting those who had loved ones lost or known someone involved in this tragedy.
The buildings were so large that everyone in New York knew someone. They were a sign of the strength of capitalism. Maybe they weren't big enough as a symbol of the great people and the spirit that they showed in New York.
The flow of people that streamed north from the devastation was like a school of fish, one following the other. There were so many faces – in any other circumstance too many to look at – yet on that one day, each one a lasting memory in my mind.
One thing that really sticks out in my mind was the night I went down to Union Park on 14th Street. There were hundreds [later in the week it became thousands] of people there, lighting candles in remembrance and in respect of those lost. People singing songs to lighten the mood a little and to help everyone to come together.
But it was the individual messages people were writing, some advice to the President, others hatred towards those responsible for this act of terror, but mostly little thoughts of wisdom.
This was capped off by a very emotional sight when four New York firefighters walked past. People rose to their feet to give them a standing ovation. I joined the clapping and cheering, while some cried in appreciation for their fighting spirit and courageous, selfless acts.
I had seen now the best New York had to offer. It wasn't the breathtaking skyline, it wasn't Wall Street, it isn't anything that you can build. It was
humans themselves and the human spirit that we can all show.
I cannot understand completely what people are going through. I was simply there, not involved, just present.
I hope that one day we can share in the fact that this will never happen again.
Now is certainly a time for justice, but not revenge.
Our thoughts are with those who have been lost in this tragedy and our hearts go out for all the Australians who have lost, and to our brothers and sisters around the world who have also lost.