As I prepare for the Ethiopian New Year (Enkutatash), which is supposed to be a joyous occasion, I cannot help but feel indifference. The dilemma for me, which I am sure many Ethiopians share, is that Ethiopian New Year falls on September 11th – that ill fated day when America was attacked.
I awoke that morning of 9/11 to text messages of New Year wishes and on my way out the door my mother stopped me to send me off with blessings for the coming New Year. On my route to school I passed a clear view of the Twin Towers. When I returned home they were no longer there.
When America was under attack I was on campus waiting for my first class to begin. The door was unusually locked and the professor was not there. As I continued to wait for the professor I heard talk of airplanes flying into buildings but no one knew exactly what happened. I merely discarded what I heard as just another gossip on campus. After some time passed and it was clear the professor would not show up, I decided to pass time at the computer lab. On my way there, I entered the doors of the university center where I noticed a large crowd, silent and immobile, staring at the television screens. I looked up and saw the first images of the airliners crashing into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. Over and over those images played on the television. My heart sank and I stood there frozen like the crowd. Images of the planes crashing into the towers and people jumping out of windows to escape flames will forever be embedded in me. On that day I discovered how short life is.
Once I collected myself and after failed attempts of trying to reach loved ones on my cell, I made my way to my friend’s dormitory. We sat wordlessly as we stared at the television in disbelief. Finally my mother succeeded in reaching me. I learned she was on her way with my brother to pick me up. About four hours later my mother reached the university – which is a 20 minute drive from home. On the way back home traffic was at a gridlock. We passed Newark, NJ where many bomb threats were made and it seemed as if we would never reach home. When we finally did, night had fallen and I had forgotten that it was Ethiopian New Year. The cheer state I had left home with was replaced with panic and deep sadness.
With just days left before the New Year, while buying daisies in celebration of our custom, I do not feel like dancing nor do I feel like singing. After the 9/11 attacks Enkutatash, one of Ethiopia’s most important festival, will never be the same again. Though eight years has passed each year on Enkutatash I reflect on 9/11 and the 2,973 people who died that day.