“Words from Readers” – My September 11

On September 11, 1973, a violent military coup struck Chile

“Words from Readers” – My September 11

On September 11, 1973, a violent military coup struck Chile. Democracy is destroyed and beyond that, the lives of millions of Chileans will be forever changed.

I was barely 5 years old that day, and yet that date is still a sore wound fifty years later. I was small, but big enough for my memory to keep an indelible mark. A mark that forever marked my life as a child and then as an adult. Besides, while writing this text, tears still come to my eyes.

I experienced what a child should never experience. I experienced fear! The fear of not seeing his parents again, who left in the morning to work in their offices near the presidential palace of La Moneda. Fear listening to the bursts of automatic weapons from the soldiers who have invaded a working-class neighborhood near our home.

I remember the vision of these soldiers seen in the street, behind the curtain of the living room of our house. I keep in my memory the images of a father who returns alone with fear and who shelters us from the windows of our apartment, in a corridor. A dejected father, with red eyes from having cried so much, because a part of his life, of his commitment, is collapsing.

We were three children aged 2 to 5 holed up in this corridor with their father, in absolute fear and anguish, with automatic weapons, messages from the military junta on the radio as background noise. These images are still in black and white in my memory today, a sign of the dark trace they left.

As the hours pass, anxiety invades us. We have not heard from our mother who has gone to work at the Ministry of Labor which adjoins the presidential palace. In these circumstances, the worst can be expected. The curfew is declared at 5 p.m. and our mother has still not returned. My dad seems distraught. What will happen?

At nightfall, our mother managed to return after walking several kilometers, even though the curfew was already in effect. She will tell us years later that she had to cross several military roadblocks, always with the fear of being arrested or killed.

I experienced a night of September 11, 1973, of terror, in which I saw my parents, overcome by fear, burning papers and documents in the bathtub, jumping when someone knocked at the door. A night was beginning, we didn’t imagine it would be seventeen years long.

I understand the terror of New Yorkers in the face of the attacks on the World Trade Center towers. I myself was stunned, seized with a certain terror. However, my 9/11, the one that changed my life, will forever be 9/11, 1973.

Mauricio Espinosa Barry, Lyon