The Word Is Collapsing

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In September 2001, I was living in Hong Kong, working for a local company. I had just graduated from high school and was enjoying my first glimpse of freedom in Kowloon.

I had two co-workers : Bidé and Kelín. Both of them were also my roommates since the company I was working for provided accommodation.

We were living in Hum Hong, a twenty minutes walk from Tsimshatshui where we worked. We shared a small brand new apartment (a million dollars condo, really) that my boss had just bought. Tower 1, 33rd floor. The apartment had a bathroom, a small kitchen which we never used (dim-sum to go was the motto) and a living room with a huge bay-window overlooking Hong Kong skyline and Victoria Harbour. Bidé, my male co-worker had taken the only room we had. He was a spoiled brat. Nice but spoiled. Kelín and I were sleeping in sleeping bag directly on the floor in the living-room/ kitchen. The apartment was brand new, so we didn’t have any furniture. We were living like hippies in Hong Kong’s most expensive condo apartments. Go figure.

That day, we had gone shopping directly after work and we came home late. My roommate was to cut my hair and I was to experience a new reddish color.

Around 10 pm, I was sitting on the kitchen counter, admiring my new hairstyle in a pocket mirror when my other co-worker stormed in. Stoned, as usual.

— The World Trade Center was hit by a plane !

I looked though the window and pointed out Hong Kong’s WTC, right in from of us, its lights shining brightly among the futuristic skyline.

— No it hasn’t. You shouldn’t smoke so much.
— Gee, you’re so narrow-minded Zhu ! Have you ever heard of New York ? Duh, there’s a WTC there, ya know.
— Of course I knew.
I didn’t.
— But what happened exactly ? Hit, like an accident ?
— Well, that’s one hell of an accident. I mean, it’s the WTC !

Of course, we didn’t have a TV in the apartment. Nor did we have an internet connexion. Or a computer for that matters.

— Let’s find a TV somewhere.

But he had already passed out in his room.

Kelín and I took the elevator (7 minutes to get downstairs) and asked the receptionist where we could find a TV.
He was strangely overzealous, especially considering he never quite forgave us for hanging out the laundry at the window, thus spoiling the condo’s very high standards.

— Of course, poor Americans, follow me, follow me.

He led us through the main floor and suddenly stopped in front of a huge door.

— A terrible thing for you Americans !

No time to contradict him and go all “Vive la France”. Americans we looked like, Americans we were.

He opened the door and let us in the gym. Quickly, he turned on one of the ubiquitous TV above the Stairmasters. CNN.

We took a sit on the bikes and watched. The second plane had crashed into the 2nd tower by then and it looked like anything but an accident. Our English was somewhat limited but we grasped most of the news. Not that it was hard to understand : voices and faces said it all. People just didn’t understand what was going on – neither did we.

Unexpected. Violent. Barbaric. People were so shocked they forgot to be angry. People looked like they had been punched in the face.

Who did that ? We tried to guess, naming countries at stake with the US. The list was too long. Almost right away CNN was reporting that a man named Osama Bin Laden was behind the attacks. I had never heard of him before. Palestine is also suggested. What else ? It’s terrorism, it’s clear by now.

An hour later we were back at the apartment.

The three of us sat there in the living-room.

— Think they’re gonna catch him ?
— Who ? The Osama guy ? Even if they do, what good it is gonna come out of that ? Satisfy a revenge ?
— There’s a whole ideology behind this guy and even if the head of the movement is caught, there’re bound to be followers. Cause there’re fanatics. And everyone knows the best pools for extremists ideologies : poverty, lack of education, lack of perspectives, feeling of unfairness… The Talibans didn’t come out of the blue.
— Well, if you think the US are gonna turn the other cheek you’re damn wrong. This is war. This ain’t gonna end before the head of the Taliban is hanged. Is possible, personally by Bush.
— I don’t know. I really don’t know.

Nobody knew. The giant with feet of clay was crying tonight. The attacks had been unexpected and terribly shocking. And peace was a long way down the road.

We slept late that night if at all. We felt Americans that day.

(to be continued…)


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. Bonjour Zhu!

    That was a terrible day, indeed *nodding*! Unlike you I was in front of the TV when the second plain hit the other tower…I was in awe! I couldn’t believe that it was happening, we were talking about NYC here…I felt violated (and I wasn’t even there), attacked…murdered!
    Watching all those people throwing themselves off the towers…painful *nodding*!

    Even I felt American that day, and seconded Bush when he decided to go to war!

    It was a terrible event that changed society’s behaviours and thoughts, I dare saying!
    When everybody was celebrating the “Aquarium Era” – when wars would cease, peace would come our way- something terrible like this happened…and it hasn’t stopped yet!

    With this I leave you, Zhu…


  2. Dear Zhu….the World mourned on this day and I remembered I was having my lecture at about 8 pm when my girlfriend passed me a handphone message from her boyfriend and I was like…WHAT???

    When I went home at 10.30pm time stood still for me, I was beyond words and till this day I still feel the sorrow. The pain was even worst when I visited Ground Zero in Year 2005….*sob*

  3. Personally I would say that the American people mourned and the rest of the world took notice “that life wouldnt be the same after this event”.

    Just because I SEE all over the news the two towers going down via terrorist attacks it doesnt mean I “mourn” any less or more for the unlucky victims than the dismembered children in Bagdad that are bombed in their sleep. Life is sacred wherever it is.

    A grand tragic event that its repercussions are felt all over the world. If I had a title for the event I would have gone with “The end of an era…”

    Let’s hope for the best from now on and act to make it happen to the best of our ability.


  4. It’s nice that you call yourself a world citizen, coz that’s how I see myself, too. Yes, what happened in 2001 was tragic, but at the same time, tragedies happen everyday in war torn countries, but it doesn’t get as much coverage from the rest of the world 🙁 or children dying of AIDS or hunger. Just not fair. I feel for the victims and their families of 9/11, but I also weep for the living.

    Your Love Coach

  5. It was a very tragic event, I felt sad for the innocents who died. The tragedy received worldwide attention, and it was remembered and mourned every year by people around the world, unlike the everyday death of women and children in Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq.

    Their everyday tragedy doesn’t shock the world because the world has got so used to it. Moreover, they are killed with bullets and bombs, not by aircraft slamming into a building. Before the death of the 3,000 innocents in the 9/11 tragedy, thousands and thousands of innocents died in Iraq through UN-imposed sanctions. US support for Israel had destroyed thousands of lives throughout the Middle East.

    You’re right Zhu, the “world is collapsing”.

    Who blew up the twin towers is still an unsolved mystery. There are many questions about 9/11 which had remained unanswered.

    I like the way you threw in some humour in your post. It makes it very interesting to read 🙂

  6. Yes, we all did feel like Americans that day. How very poignant, Zhu.

    I’m amazed at how frozen in time that morning is in all of our minds, down to the very last details. I’d only heard that from a generation who experienced JFK’s assassination at how that tragedy was etched in their brains.

    Now, sadly, we each have our own memory of evil.

  7. It was a terrible day for us. Laura had just started working in Manhattan a few months before, just north of the towers.

    After I heard what happened, I was worried sick and couldn’t get a hold of her (the phone lines were overloaded).

    My heart goes out to all the victims.

  8. Max: it was a weird day, for sure. The end of Aquarius ? Well, probably actually… I was strange though, I think it’s the first big event I saw live as an adult.

    Shionge : I’ve never been to NY actually, but I imagine visiting or rather seeing Ground Zero is quite painful.

    Deadpoolite : I don’t know… I think I mourned with Americans that day, knowing what terrorism was because we had it in Europe before, I know it’s painful. Doesn’t mean I always support the US politics following 9/11 – quite the opposite actually.

    joy: I agree, it wasn’t fair. Especially considering there’s like how many people killed in Irak/ Afghanistan a day now ? Yet the attack was painful to watch that day. Thanks for visiting, fellow world citizen ! 😉

    zunnur : I think everyone felt the same that day, no matter where you from and what you think of US politics. We’re humans. We’re vulnerable.

    Paper Fan Club: it’s totally true, I think we all remember how we learned the news…

    Dan : oh, you must have be so anxious ! I’m glad she was alright but that must have been very hard on you.

  9. Interesting change, is it much better than blogspot? Your page has been updated 🙂

    But the attacks on the WTC, I was watching a video when it happened. It was late at the night for me and my parents was like “quick, come here and watch this!”

    I was watching the planes when they hit the WTC and I was like, “what is this, a movie”

    They were like, no it’s the WTC in America being hit by terrorists..

    I never quite forgot that day, the death of thousands civilians who weren’t involved in the imminent ideological war and possibly many who was against it…

  10. Hi Zhu,
    This is great, congratulations for the new “home”!
    I like your new blog very much. I will update the link in my blog soon.

  11. Hey Zhu!

    Girl, I have subscribed to this one already :)!
    I was wondering already where you were :-D! I am glad you’re back!!!


  12. So interesting to read from the perspective of someone other than an American. Thank you for writing this Zhu. I’m looking forward to the rest.

    I have changed your link in my sidebar at Curious Villager! … congrats on moving to a dotcom. It’s so labor intensive, isn’t it? :p

  13. Shan : wow, updated already ? You’re quick ! 😉

    A lot of people thought it was a movie for a few seconds actually… It was just so weird, so unreal. Still is for me to this day.

    zunnur : thanks for the positive feedback ! Come on, follow me to the dark side… 😆

    Max: I know ! A week away is like forever in the blogosphere ! I was still reading my feeds though, but I knew if I started commenting, reviewing etc. I’d hav no time left for baby WordPress !

    Tracy: I just didn’t know it would take me that long ! I guess I was a bit naive… 😆

    I often sound very critical of Americans, but truth is, I love the people as much as I hate the current government. And I truly felt for you on that day.

    Jessica : WordPress is quite different, but it’s a lot of fun. More flexible, more “professional”, more inventive… although I found it hard to set up at first.

    If you like blogging, it definitely worth the move though 😉

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