Where were you 14 years ago?

I was woken up by Grandpa calling me from London to let me know a plane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers in New York. I didn’t really know what he meant and imagined he meant some kind of light aeroplane had mistakenly flown too low or something.

I was living in Jerusalem in an area called Baka at Ulpan Etzion where I was supposed to be studying Hebrew. Instead I was sleeping in and going out late. The Al Aqsa Intifada was raging all around me and the managers of the ulpan program were quick to point out that we were the smallest group they had ever had. Bearing in mind the ulpan was older than Israel that was quite something.

Every day I ran, did push ups and sit ups in preparation for the selection for the Paratroopers. I was 22.

I groggily made my way downstairs to the TV room to find many of my fellow students already sitting there, eyes glued to the box. It was clear this had been no light aeroplane.

We watched the second plane fly into the second tower, no one spoke, we just sat there transfixed watching history unfold before our eyes. The buildings went down one after the other. I had the feeling of being transported to Sarajevo in 1914. That I knew how it must have felt to watch the archduke get assassinated.

I was witnessing the world change, I was witnessing the end of the world as I had understood it. I was watching the world change forever live on CNN.

There in Jerusalem, a new immigrant to the Jewish state with suicide bombs going off every day around me I sat watching New York City. A place I’d never been to. Some around me cried, one shouted and threw a chair. I was silent. There was nothing to say.

Later on that day I went for a run. In shock still. While running my mind turned over the events and the images that had been broadcast.

And yet I knew I had made all of the right decisions. The IDF was waiting. Those who hated America hated us, those who wished to kill Americans wished to kill Jews. Those who wished to kill Jews didn’t discriminate between civilians and soldiers, babies and old men, women in combat and women at work.

Those who wished to kill us were happy to sacrifice their lives to do so. On that day I understood I needed to be every bit as committed as them. If they were prepared to kill themselves to kill us I had to be prepared to die to stop them.

On this day 14 years ago I understood that the world had changed…and that I had too.

Where were you 14 years ago?

About the Author
Marc Goldberg is the author of Beyond the Green Line, a story his service in the IDF fighting through the al Aqsa Intifada