I was still asleep at 6:30 am on the morning of September 12, 2001, when the BBC Hindi bulletin first brought news of the attacks to India. When I awoke an hour later, I immediately switched on the radio so that I wouldn’t miss the 8:00 am broadcast on All India Radio (AIR). Part of my daily routine was to listen to the BBC or AIR before heading off to my classes at the University of Delhi.
When the newsreader announced that terrorists had attacked New York’s World Trade Center and reduced it to rubble, I couldn’t believe my ears. I didn’t move for half an hour, until I’d listened to both the Hindi and English bulletins.
An overwhelming desire to see the news on TV took me to the university’s Mansarovar Hostel, which was the only place a migrant student with limited means had any access to TV. By the time I arrived, the TV room was packed with students watching in complete disbelief, stunned by the images of planes crashing into one of the tallest buildings in the world, and unable not to digest the fact that the most powerful nation in the world had come under siege from terrorists.
Wherever I went that day – the library, classrooms, the canteen – the mood was sombre, but the discussions animated. Speculation had already begun about a possible war in Afghanistan. India, itself a victim of terrorism, was discussing the need for an all-out war against this scourge.
I still have the radio set on which I first heard the news, and whenever I happen to see it in my cupboard, the memories from that day come flooding back. While I’ve moved beyond an old transistor radio, ten years down the line, the world is still grappling with the after-effects of the news it broadcast that morning.
Sanjay Kumar is The Diplomat’s India correspondent and contributor to Indian Decade.
Photo: Dov Harrington