Ten years ago, on September 11, 2001, my little brother was standing in front of the White House speaking to our mother on his cellphone.
He was preparing for an early morning tour, and my mother was trying to tell him airplanes had hit buildings in New York. My mother could hear the loudspeakers telling people to leave the area. My brother said he had to go, and that was the last mom heard from him for seven hours.
As my brother was leaving he saw a plane, flying very low, and banking away. He could see the windows, and the flaking paint on the plane’s tail.
A few seconds later, as he and the crowd moved away from the White House, he heard the explosion as the plane hit the Pentagon.
Either Flight 77 or Flight 93 had the White House as its intended target. The whim of a demented madman changed the target of the former, the sacrifice of forty normal yet extraordinary people made sure the latter would never get to its target.
He spent the rest of that day safely making coffee for the Australian Prime Minister, and the other refugees who had made it to the Australian embassy.
My brother was in shock for a long time after that day. He considered it not only to be a near death experience, but also a shared near death experience. He saw a planeload of people seconds before they were all murdered, he believed another planeload of people had to die so that he could live.
Unfortunately, after he finally got home, there really wasn’t anyone around who could relate to what he went through. So, for a few years afterwards, there were some dark depressions, some self-destructive behaviour. But, thankfully, there was also a recovery.
Since then my brother has lived a very normal life. He has an interesting job, a fantastic wife and a baby boy. He is also Godfather to my son.