Reporter's Notebook

Your Memories of 9/11
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To mark the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, readers and staffers are sharing their stories: where they were, what they remember, and how the events of that day changed their lives and their countries.

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Watching 9/11 From Around the World

An elderly Bulgarian man in Sofia on September 12, 2001, looks at the local newspapers. Reuters

One reader, Teresa Poppelwell, was working with the UN in Herat, in western Afghanistan, on September 11, 2001, specifically “in a meeting with the Taliban discussing how the UN could assist drought-affected IDPs [internally displaced persons] from Ghor province.” And then:

We returned to our guest house and watched CNN coverage of the plane that had flown into the first tower just minutes before. There were approximately 10 of us in the room. No one spoke. The sun was setting over the garden walls when the second plane hit. Shortly thereafter we were escorted to our UN offices to grab essential items like hard drives from our computers. We spent the night with Taliban guarding our guesthouse (sitting in the roof with AK47s) who then escorted us to the airport around 10 am the next morning. We waited for the UN plane to arrive.

We grieved with the poor souls in New York. We worried for the Afghans we were leaving behind. We knew things would never be the same.

Another reader was a student in Lebanon at the time of the attacks, dreaming of escaping to the West from a region that felt like “a big prison”:

I, like thousands of Western-educated young people, had no other choice but to leave in order to live. 9/11 crashed our plans and hopes and future.

Men look outside through a broken window at the site of a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan on October 5, 2016. Mohammad Ismail / Reuters

Mohammad Sayed Madadi is currently getting a master’s degree at Stanford. But he spent part of his childhood under the Taliban, and he remembers the American intervention after the 9/11 attacks—which started 15 years ago today and ultimately toppled that government—as seeming to herald a new era for him. It did, but not exactly in the way he hoped. Sayed got an education that would never have been possible under the Taliban, and saw his sisters do the same. He has also witnessed continuing bloodshed in his country, and was himself injured in an ISIS bombing in Kabul this summer that killed some 80 people. “Afghanistan is a much better country than it was in 2001,” he writes. “Is that enough?”

When the Taliban were overthrown, it was as if the city I lived in was newer, brighter, more crowded; as if those American bombs that fell after September 11 really brought voice and light to a place that had been quiet and dark.