On 9/11, my husband, Rick and I were meeting with several refugees from war zones in Africa, the Middle East and the former Yugoslavia. This took place at the Red Cross Refugee Center in Budapest, Hungary.
Rick was leading a Bible study discussion as an outreach from our mission organization when the facility manager pushed the door open and ran across the room to turn on the TV.
“How rude,” I thought. We had reserved that space specifically for a meeting. Then, with no apology, she cranked up the volume on the TV. The image on the screen was of a high-rise on fire. It soon became clear that the building had been hit by a plane and was one of two World Trade Center towers. I shuddered at the thought of such a terrible accident and the lives that might be lost when, to our total shock and horror, a second plane hit the neighboring tower.
Everyone in the room was silent but stunned to realize that this was no accident and the nation was under attack. From that point on, the news commentator began to speculate about Middle East Islamist terrorists making war on America.
For the next hour or so all of us sat riveted and watched, imagining the worst.
When the announcement that the Pentagon had been hit came on, we decided to leave. As we were going, a civil engineer named Ali spoke to us with great sadness: “I am so sorry that my people did this to your people!”
He had left Iraq after members of his family were targeted and murdered by Saddam Hussein.
When we got back to our apartment, I immediately called my parents. My elderly father answered the phone. “Pop,” I blurted out, “turn on the TV! The country is under attack!”
He didn’t believe me and for the next minute or so I had to convince him to check the news station. When he saw for himself that it was true, his voice changed and he sounded older and feebler, but couldn’t find words to express what he was feeling. I promised to call back later and contacted my daughter, Aline, in Los Angeles for fear that the West Coast might also be attacked. How relieved I was to hear that she was OK.
The sense of relief didn’t last. As more information about the planes was broadcast, Aline informed us that the previous week she had flown the same flight on the same schedule from Logan Airport as the one that hit the north tower. To think that it was the same airplane and that she had missed being killed by only one week was chilling news.
Rick and I called as many relatives as we could get through to and we prayed for our whole family’s safety, for America’s safety and for all of those whose lives were forever changed that day.
-Robin Van Luik, Niskayuna
More Remembrances: We remember; The Daily Gazette’s special Sept. 11 anniversary section