My name is Karmen Kollar and I am a graduate of ELTE University, where I studied International Relations with a specialization in Human Rights. I am one of the Kellner Scholars in Bard College’s BGIA program in New York City.
When I arrived here in September, one of my first school assignments for a writing class was to travel to the site of the September 11 attacks in lower Manhattan and interview people who were visiting. As I went around the time of the anniversary, it was a pretty emotional place to be. I would like to share with you the feature story I wrote after my visit:
NEW YORK, Sept. 10 – Sitting calmly on one of the benches around the 9/11 memorial, John Share, a retired British schoolteacher, was observing the people around him. He has already seen this place twice; he visited both before and after the attacks. Now he is here one day before the anniversary as part of a cruise trip, waiting for his tourist group to gather. He still has vivid memories about his previous visits.
“We discovered the remains of a human body.” – he heard a police officer saying on his radio a few months after the event, when he was visiting the site. Recovery works were only finished on June 10, 2012 and later a sculpture was erected from the remains of the crashed planes near to where the World Trade Center stood. Even though New Yorkers have organized many talks, exhibitions, concerts and plays these days to commemorate the event, John likes to remember in his own way: going back in his memories and comparing his experiences from before and after the towers fell.
During a visit approximately a year after the events, he and his wife came by the subway and as he explained, it was extremely difficult to relate the situation as they were finding it to what this place has previously been. Just as they were leaving the subway, they came by all that was remaining of an entrance, flawed. It had a legend on it: “Welcome to the World Trade Center”. That really brought it home for them. Assuming that once it was the floor of the entrance, now there was nothing else, just this legend, “Welcome”. It was quite saddening.
“Even though we are not Americans, we are British, but we still feel for you as we have particular feelings towards America”, John said. “I think that we have been very important in each other’s history.”
“I wish they were all still here.” As he pronounced these words he stopped for a while and his voice sounded weak. With all those names on the memorial it felt intensely personal to him. After all, the people who died here were fellow human beings and their progress was halted very abruptly. According to him, nobody deserves that. “This is man’s inhumanity to man, isn’t it?”
He still tries to make sense of how it is possible for someone to commit an act like that. But he came up with an explanation for himself.
“If there are two people, one will be jealous, won’t they? And in some cases those jealousies become so engraved and so setting concrete that they can’t go away.”
In John’s opinion 9/11 is a terrible example of the excess that people are prepared to go to if they think they are right. “Whether they possess sufficient mentality to understand whether their cause is right or wrong seemingly doesn’t matter, does it? It’s just hit and hurt.”
His group has already gathered and as he was preparing to leave, he added: “Activity, physical or mental is life. I think that your nation has done well to overcome this situation which is progress.”