Everyone remembers where they were when 9/11 happened. For me, it happened twice.
On September 7th, 2001, I’d gone over to my friend Amy’s house for a sleepover. We’d watched movies, gossiped about crushes - all the regular innocent mischief twelve-year old girls tend to get up to. And then - resolving that although pulling an all-nighter was a cool idea, it was one we could attempt another time - we went to bed. We both climbed into the top level of her loft bed, laid down top-to-tail with my head at her feet facing the window… and slowly the whispered giggles were replaced with slow, easy breathing. We fell asleep, and into the world of dreams.
The dream that had chosen me put me in the forested outskirts of a city.
I could see the entire city, almost as if it were in miniature, nestled into a valley below where I stood. At the center of that city stood a skyscraper that reached hundreds of feet above the rest of the buildings around. It stood proud, a shining pillar against the amber sunset.
And then I heard a sound.
A sharp, high-pitched whistling sound pierced the air. It was like white noise, turned violent. I looked to find the source of the awful sound, and suddenly, from beyond the edge of the trees, it emerged - a plane. I watched as this silver bullet sliced through the sky towards the city. Then, horror chilling me to the bone, I watched it collide with that beautiful tower. The tower crumbled. The city was washed over with a powerful wave of dust and ash.
I remember suddenly being aware that I had a few of my close friends standing by me. I turned to them, reassured them that we were safe on the outskirts even though the dust was beginning to crawl beyond the city… and then I woke up.
I didn’t get back to sleep that night. It was four in the morning when my eyes shot open in a panic, my heart racing - and my ears still ringing with the ghost of that horrible whistling sound, so loud and constant that all hope of finding rest again was well and truly lost. I had no choice but to stare out my friend Amy’s window, watching the sun rise while I waited for her to wake up and distract me.
Four days later, on September 11, 2001, I was in my seventh-grade French class, and the principal came in to announce that there had been a terrorist attack. A plane had crashed into the World Trade Centre.
My blood has never run so cold.
I spent most of that day in complete shock, watching over and over and over and over again as my nightmare came to life.
Now, I’ve never claimed to be a mystic, and such a “vision” has never happened again - but that sort of thing has a way of making you evaluate your life. I was an extremely sheltered twelve-year old girl at the time, and Canadian. I was, for all intents and purposes, almost completely disconnected from the immediate effects of that attack. As in the dream, I was on the outskirts of the suffering. So why had I, of all people, been given that unique emotional investment in it? Why was I chosen to be a voyeur in a situation I couldn’t have known nearly enough about? And if it were a prophecy, what the hell did I have in my power to do about it?
In the days and years following 9/11, it became clear that this event marked a tectonic shift in the very foundation of our world - of who we are as humanity. And so, seventeen years later, I’m still asking myself those questions. Why me? Who am I in all of this? Ultimately, I think that’s actually the closest I’ll ever come to finding an answer as to why this dream came to me - to make sure that I never stop asking myself those things. To always consider my role in any crisis, because there’s always a role to be filled. To step into the suffering, even if you’re safe on the outskirts. To take responsibility for the future of mankind.
...alright, so, maybe that dream gave me a bit of a hero complex.
And in all honesty, there’s a very real chance that it actually meant nothing. A matter of coincidence. But in seventeen years, I’ve made the decision over and over that it does mean something, that my contribution to the future is something I need to keep myself accountable to. That there is a contribution for me to make.
I’ve never once regretted it.