Mercury (Hobart)

Revisiting 9/11

SADNESS REMAINS BUT CARRIE BICKMORE STAYS IN TOUCH WITH VICTIMS’ FAMILIES

- LISA WOOLFORD

Mention 9/11 and we are instantly taken back 20 years to when we first heard the terrible news. The Project host Carrie Bickmore was watching it all unfold in her living room. When she saw a plane hit the World Trade Centre, she wondered what movie was on.

She’d recently graduated from uni and was in her first job as a radio newsreader in Perth.

She was called in to start reporting on it and spent “day in, day out, for weeks and weeks” covering the story. At age 20, Bickmore was trying to comprehend the enormity of the major news event.

“I don’t think I truly understood what was happening as I was trying to make sense of it to report on it,” she explains. “It was the first major news story I had to cover and it’s stayed with me ever since.”

The stories of survival and the real people behind those horrifying images resonated most.

“It was wall-to-wall with graphic images and decipherin­g the politics of it all, but it was the stories I kept hearing of families who had lost loved ones and from the survivors that stayed with me,” Bickmore says.

It’s why on the 10th anniversar­y of the tragedy she headed to New York to meet some of those people and share their incredible stories of loss and resilience.

Another decade on, ahead of the 20th anniversar­y, Bickmore reunited with those five families – including a grieving mother whose son was falsely accused of being one of the terrorists, a firefighte­r who survived after swapping shifts and a son who lost his single mother – to see if they were still living in the shadow of tragedy or whether time actually does heal?

“I did genuinely connect with them all 10 years ago so it became more than a news story to me,” Bickmore says. “I was genuinely interested in their lives and their grief and their healing.”

Bickmore – whose first husband Greg Lange passed away after a long battle with brain cancer in 2010 – truly understand­s grief.

“I’m very aware it’s not something you experience over a short time and then you wrap up in a tight bow and move on from,” she says. “I was just really interested to see if they were all OK more than anything else. They were just the most beautiful people with heartbreak­ing but also inspiring stories.”

She admits she was also nervous to reconnect with some families – especially Roger the firefighte­r, who survived after swapping shifts that fateful morning because his wife called to say she was pregnant. He then spent nine months at Ground Zero in the rubble digging and trying to find his fellow first responders. Roger was forced to retire five years later with sarcoidis – a lung disease caused by the toxic dust.

“He was struggling a decade ago and I was anxious to reconnect to see if he was OK with the emotional journey he has been on,” Bickmore says. “He’s in a different place but he still struggles with the same images and flashbacks.”

What also hurt was the discovery that these families feel they have been forgotten. The global pandemic and the tyranny of time passing meaning it’s no longer headline news when a 9/11 first responder dies.

“This is not my specialty but as humans there is something in the way we look forward, rather than back, so we can heal and move on from pain,” Bickmore muses. “So what then happens if you haven’t lived it, if it’s just something that you saw then you can move on.”

She was shocked to learn the events of 9/11 are not part of the US schools curriculum.

“I was speaking with one of the retired firefighte­rs and he is so angry,” Bickmore says.

“Even in New York it is only a tiny bit within a history lesson.

“He spends a lot of time going to schools to educate kids about what happened that day.”

Another positive from the

I was speaking with one of the retired firefighte­rs and he is so angry

months of work in producing this second 9/11 special was the chance to educate her teenage son, Ollie.

“It’s hard to imagine a generation which doesn’t know about one of the deadliest days in American history,” Bickmore says.

“My son’s obviously been watching me do edits to pull the stories together. It’s been interestin­g for me to be able to share with him how that day changed the world and America and how it is relevant to the things happening in Afghanista­n now.”

The renowned crier laughs as she admits she shed plenty of tears through the interviews – this time on Zoom with Australia’s border restrictio­ns meaning no trip to New York.

“There is this beautiful moment, that a lot of families will relate to, sometimes it is easier to talk to a stranger about something tragic in your life than it is to speak to your own family,” she says. “We spoke to one man whose grandson, was only three when his dad was killed, who said they don’t talk about it in his family. But now 20 years on the conversati­on finally begins. It filled with me a lovely sense of peace that they are going to be OK.”

The Project Presents 9/11: 20 Years On. Tuesday, 7.30pm, Ten

ven if we’re in lockdown or don’t have friends and family with us, there are still plenty of reasons to celebrate a birthday. Things are uncertain these days, and many special birthday plans have been all but cancelled. People around Australia are missing out on celebratin­g birthday milestones with loved ones, and many are unsure when they will be able to have that big party again.

How to celebrate in lockdown

In the midst of it all, we can still do a lot to make birthdays special. Many of us have made the most of a bad situation by realising that celebratin­g during lockdown is still important. It not only gives us something to look forward to, but it also helps us focus on creating memorable moments in our lives with who is around us and what we have on hand.

We can also invite friends and family to help us celebrate through virtual chats and video calls. There is always something we can do to make the situation a little bit happier. Before you do anything, however, you’ll need to decide on the most essential part of a birthday celebratio­n: the cake! These simple cakes use staple ingredient­s but will go a long way to helping make your birthday feel special.

Cake ideas

Want something with a twist? Try our celebratio­n Jaffa cake for a fun take on classic chocolate. It boasts orange-flavoured chocolate with crunchy, crushed Jaffa ganache throughout. It will also look pretty good on a Zoom call.

If you have a gluten intolerant family member, why not try this gluten-free sponge cake?

If you’d like something with a bit of nostalgia, a Neapolitan slab cake will bring back memories. It tastes similar to a tub of everyone’s favourite retro ice cream and, since it’s so colourful, it will really set the tone for a fun birthday celebratio­n.

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 ??  ?? Carrie Bickmore, back in 2011, looks at a wall of images of missing people from the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.
Carrie Bickmore, back in 2011, looks at a wall of images of missing people from the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.
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