Today, September 11th 2021, marks the 20th anniversary of 9/11, the day New York City’s Twin Towers were attacked.
31-year-old Maltese Alan Zahra, a Naxxar resident, was present at the scene. At the time it happened, he was on holidays with his parents, grandparents and older brother, staying in a hotel in midtown.
And what was meant to be a wholesome family holiday, soon turned into a terrifying experience of the most important time in recent US history.
This typical tourist photo was taken just a day before the towers collapsed:
“I remember waking up. The tv was on, and CNN was reporting about a small plane crashing in one of the twin towers. That’s how the morning started,” Zahra told Lovin Malta.
A few minutes later they went down to have breakfast, and all of a sudden they could see on tv that a second plane hit the other tower. “We didn’t believe what was happening.”
At the time he was only 11 years old, so he was scared and couldn’t understand what was happening. “I remember we were worried for another attack to happen, because it was total chaos.”
After breakfast, the family went to a subway near the hotel, where a police officer was guarding the entrance. He told them one of the towers had collapsed, so everyone had to be evacuated. “We were shocked.”
About the atmosphere of the city, Zahra said: “Chaos, panic, anguish and sadness. People were running and crying.”
A few minutes after they were evacuated from the subway, they witnessed the second tower collapse.
“I couldn’t believe it with my own eyes. At that exact moment some guy who probably was a journalist asked me if he could borrow my binoculars, as he was reporting on his cell what was happening.”
He remembers people sitting in all the HiFi stores, watching the news and praying. The day after, the family went to Times Square. “It was all deserted.”
They were supposed to leave New York City for Malta on 13th September, but left two days later – on Zahra’s birthday. It was the second plane to leave the city after the crash.
“We were filled with gratitude. I think we were the first Maltese family arriving from New York after the incident.”
In light of the 20th anniversary, the U.S. Embassy in Malta tweeted: “I ask that you join us in remembering the lives of those lost that day, including the first responders who rushed to help, many of them sacrificing their own lives as a result. May we #NeverForget.”
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