Was It A Premonition of 9/11?
Toward the end of 2001, I once again jumped on the big silver bird that took me north from my island home Australia, into the lands of Asia, a place I now see as my second home. Firstly, I must tell you all that I am a reasonably well travelled person throughout the region over a good many years. About the only place left for me to see would be North and South Korea, Japan and Burma. I’ll get there one day. Everything else in the region I have visited at least once. But of all the countries in the region, Thailand remains my favorite and I have been coming here for 20 odd years. I must admit though, I sometimes long for the wild afternoon Balinese thunderstorms that roll in from Java at sunset, dumping more rain on the island in an hour than my home city gets in a month, refreshing and revitalizing the earth. But alas, I was not in Bali, but traveling to Thailand, and soon I would be in Cambodia, a mystical land with a troubled history to the east.
I called my friend after arriving in Thailand and we met up. I was excited about my journey to a country that had, for many years at least, intrigued and fascinated me. A bloody and sad history and one which still had something of a bit of a wild west reputation at least. The books I have read and the documentaries I had seen on the tragic history of Cambodia had wetted my appetite and compelled me to visit to see for myself the places that history has recorded as The Killing Fields. My Brother My Enemy is the title of one book I would recommend to all.
All the details had been attended to. Tickets were purchased and some travellers checks were bought and soon we would be ready. After a night on the town in Bangkok, my friend and I parted company for the night, he going home to his Bang Na apartment, and I to my Sukhumvit Soi 4 hotel. I had of course had a bit to drink, though I was a long way from legless when my head finally hit the pillow. That night I had a dream that I still, to this very day remember vividly. Now I know some people will think – this guy is having us on – but I swear to god that what I am about to tell you actually happened in my dream. The effect on me was pretty profound at the time – as one would imagine given that I can still see the scenes inside my minds eye as I write – and soon, only two days later, it would really freak me out.
My dream, it would be fair to say, scared the living daylights out of me. It was so vivid, and so frightening, that for the first time in my life, the following day I had to share it with my friend over lunch. This is something that I had never done before with anyone. It was bloody, full of gore with rotting bodies and the stench of death and rotting corpses pilled high in hospital morgues and rooms. Scenes of mayhem – utter madness. I saw two planes explode in the sky and bodies falling through the air. Ambulances were everywhere. People were screaming at each other. Complete and utter mayhem. I saw a cityscape. It looked like any big city, one in America or perhaps even my home city in Australia. It seemed so very familiar but this was just terrible. I walked though corridors, bodies everywhere. Outside in the city street, ambulances and fire trucks. All of this in vivid colour and the date of my dream – 9 September 2001.
I had one day previously left home having written to my daughter who would celebrate her 7th birthday on 11 September 2001. I had no idea that this date would become infamous and in a way, I feel so sorry for my daughter given the terrible tragedy about to unfold.
Fast forward two days to Phnom Penh – 11 September 2001.
My friend and I were readying ourselves for a night out on the town. It was late afternoon and we were to meet up with a local NGO at a restaurant over the other side of the city, near the monument. Sitting waiting patiently in the hotel’s lobby for my friend to come down, I engaged two Americans in conversation. They wanted to know what the hotel was like. Well, I said “it isn’t the Ritz but it isn’t the pits” to their collective amusement. Some further small chit chat and my friend finally arrived downstairs and so we were off. On the back of a couple of motor bikes through the streets of the Cambodian capital. It was near dusk and soon we were at a lovely little Vietnamese restaurant near the monument. We met up with our NGO contact and another – an aid worker from Batambung in Cambodia’s far west. Good food and good chat was had. It was hot and I can remember downing more beer during the feast than I normally would have. At about 8.45pm we said our goodbyes and left for the craziest bar in Cambodia, or so I was to think, Martini’s. It was like being the only buyer on the floor on the Chicago futures exchange and everyone else’s was a seller. We were suddenly attacked by a horde of dark skinned ladies of the night all grabbing and wanting me to go with them. Jesus H Christ I can remember thinking – this is bizarre. I looked to my right and a TV was showing a scene from a Die Hard movie, or so it looked. The two towers of the World Trade Centre were standing, smoke coming from them both. Not paying a lot of attention, I bought me and my friend a beer and we stood there, beer in hand at the bar looking at each other. Cheers. Then I look again at the TV and the scene has not changed. Strange I thought. The same scene for so long. Let’s check this out. We both walk over to the TV where a group of guys were standing, staring at the screen, motionless. “What’s the movie?” I asked. “No fucking movie mate. Two planes have crashed into the World Trade Centre in New York and two others have crashed one into the Pentagon in Washington.” he said in a manner as if I should have known already.
“What the fuck. Jesus Christ.” About a thousand questions went through my mind in a flash – who where why when what – what is this? I was in a very very surreal setting watching perhaps one of the most defining moments in the modern history of man in a bar in Cambodia. It was then it hit me. A dread that is simply unexplainable. A feeling of pity, of sadness and foreboding.
We finished our beers and high tailed it back to the hotel where, by the grace of god and the wonders of the modern age, I watched the whole tragic saga unfold. As the scenes were shown through the streets of New York of the crashing towers and aftermath, my dream unfolded before my eyes. I was to get no sleep that night.
In my dream, I saw no Twin Towers, no Statue of Liberty or anything else that would identify New York as a target of some terror attack. I saw no planes crashing into buildings either. But what I did see was so horrific and so similar to what actually occurred on that faithful day, that I can not forget it. This is the first time I have shared this story on such a scale – telling the world after more than two years. Was it just a horrible coincidence, a twist of fate or was it in some way a forewarning of impending doom. You be the judge.
FWIW, I was in the middle of investigating a lady of the night down in Asoke Plaza when a friend called to tell me what was happening. There was a light drizzle falling on that part of Bangkok that night but that was not the reason why a whole load of punters were huddled around inside the one enclosed bar in Asoke Plaza, it was the only one with a TV. Needless to say the investigation continued the next night as I joined them to watch the horror unfold.