It felt like I was watching a silent movie. I could clearly see the top of the building starting to collapse. But I do not remember the sound at all.
I watched the north tower disappear with my own eyes from a few blocks away, at Chelsea Piers where the police stopped TV Tokyo's crew and others.
The Twin Tower. I saw it every day during my 3 years as a New York correspondent. It was part of my life. And, it was gone just like that. (Well, I didn't witness everything because the moment I saw it, I started running as fast as I could to escape from the debris.)
I had no idea what had happened or what it meant. All I knew was that the building was gone. I wondered how many lives were in it. I tried not to think about it. I didn't want to believe it.
The first thing I thought when I came back to myself was, "I have to hurry and bring the tape back to the TV Tokyo bureau. I already had my driver back to the office to bring the earlier reports, and I did not have the luxury of satellite transmission truck-like U.S. local media. By focusing on my daily duties, I suppressed my fears and emotions and kept the shock in the back of my mind.
There was no way to contact the bureau, which is located in Midtown, 5 miles away from the World Trade Center. Phone lines were down, buses and subways were out of order, and cab drivers were in a hurry to get to their homes. After an hour of walking, I was on the verge of crying, "Why in the world do I have to walk to deliver materials in New York of all places?" Then I found a cab with 2 people on it, and I tapped on the window and asked for help. Fortunately, they were going in the same direction. I finally made it to the bureau and immediately transmitted the footage.
My colleagues and I used to go to the Twin Tower every day to cover the financial news. Many friends were working there.
No one who lives in New York City whose acquaintances were not involved in the terrorist attacks. How many tragedies, how many fateful moments have we heard about? Some were outside the building for a cigarette, others were in the hotel next door for a meeting and escaped. Yet, others were on a business trip all the way from Japan to attend a conference in the Twin Tower and never returned. The nephew of a friend of my close colleague passed away after telling his family in an e-mail that he was not going to survive and was going to die.
I could have been in that building, I could have been on that plane on a business trip. I wonder how I would feel if I were trapped in the flames. I wonder what I would have thought the moment the plane plunged into the tower. For a while after 9.11, I shivered in my bed every night. "No, I don't want to die yet." For the first time in my life, I was not against war. I felt that bombing Afghanistan was justified as self-defense.
Back then, every day, the Japanese media argued that the bombing was going too far and that Japan should feel very sorry for the Afghan people. The fact that thousands of people were killed in the U.S. for no reason, the fact that 24 Japanese, who were just ordinary business persons were killed, has been easily forgotten. Your friends, your family, and yourself could be the next target. What could you have done to prevent that from happening?
"Every time I recall the buildings collapse, I feel inexplicable shock, resentment, sadness, and remorse."
In a live broadcast 18 hours after the terrorist attack, I reported the shock of the terror attack with tears in my eyes.
Now, 20 years have passed. When I look back, everyone had their own justice, and everyone had some reason for that. I was right and wrong at the same time. There is no easy way out.
All I know is, I must not forget the strong resentment, sadness, and remorse I felt that day.
By: Nami Yamamoto TV Tokyo Journalist, Data Governance Manager, Media Strategy Advisor