It was another morning at my first ‘official’ job as a shop attendant at one of the Accor chain hotels here in Jakarta.
I got to work on that September 12, 2001, fully unaware of what had happened on the other side of the world since we are roughly 12 hours ahead of New York local times.
As I opened ‘my’ little shop, the phone rang; it was one of my friend from the reception desk.
“Did you see the news?” there was a franticness in her voice but I was clueless.
“No…I didn’t. What happened?” I sensed it was something bad, something ugly.
“There’s been an attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. My brother was just there two days ago…” her voice trailed off as she started crying.
Shocked, I hang up the phone closed the shop’s door and walked into the Back Office – aka the office behind the receptionist desk.
By the time I got to see her, she was sobbing. Our night duty Manager had turned a TV on, it was set to CNN. I was trembling when I held my friend’s shaking little body…I can’t believe the horror replayed over and over on the small screen in front of us.
Flashing images of people running, covered in dust, then the replayed of when the planes hit. It was gut wrenching and I started crying.
Everyone quickly filled the Back Office for what supposed to be our usual morning briefing but the atmosphere in there was dark, gloomy and sad. Some girls were crying, the men were quiet, our faces were troubled.
“Before we start, let’s take a moment of silence and send our prayers to those people still trapped in the buildings, those who had lost their loved ones…let’s pray for their country” The Front Office Manager took the lead and he turned the TV off. We all fell silent for a few minutes.
“The news said it might be a terrorist attack…” our Manager went on. “Our head office is taking this very seriously since we are an American branch hotel.” He went on to explain the news he received from our Accor group Asia-Pacific Headquarters.
Sure enough, as the day went on we received news that in one of our local branch in Yogyakarta a bunch of thugs who defended Osama bin Laden had barged into the hotel. They demanded to see the guests list to see if there were any American citizens in the hotel. The sweeping had begun.
I saw the frantic actions from our Receptionist and Reservation Officer who quickly worked hard to change every American citizen guests data on the computer system. Some police started arriving at our hotel as part of the increased security measurements. Even though the hotel chain wasn’t very big it is still a hotel with an American brand on it. We had varieties of guests from different countries and backgrounds.
My friend’s brother was safe. He had left New York City on that day.
As I got home that day, I turned the TV on and pain washed me away. My heart broke for those innocent lives gone forever, for those children who lost their parents, for parents who lost their children…families torn apart…for a country rocked with such evil acts.
From across the world…I grieved.
The 9/11 attacked opened up the hidden hatred for Americans in Indonesia. It brought out the brainwashed thugs who thought Bush’ pledge to bring Osama Bin Laden to justice was a war against Islam. Since then, Americans became targets of our very own kinds of terrorism. These people stupidly believe that Americans are evil.
To this day every time I heard Alan Jackson’s song, I still get goosebumps and tears still roll down.
Did you weep for the children who lost their dear loved ones
And pray for the ones who don’t know?
Did you rejoice for the people who walked from the rubble
And sob for the ones left below?
Did you burst out in pride for the red, white and blue
And the heroes who died just doin’ what they do?
Did you look up to heaven for some kind of answer
And look at yourself and what really matters?
Alan Jackson – Where Were You When The World Stop Turning
Where were you when the world stop turning that September day 10 years ago?