A Long Way Home
Writer: How Han Ming
Published: Fri, 06 Jan 2012
September 11, 1997
The sky was a hue of heavy red, orange and pink all swirling into a deep color. Clouds moved in, filtering the image through their wispy tendrils.
It was this image that was set in my head as I moved across the runway amidst a crowd of strangers. The only truly familiar thing was the growling of the plane’s engines as they whirled about, impatient and insistent, longing to move about the sky, to disrupt the churning colors that had seemed pleasing to me.
For a moment, my heart was calm as I headed into my new future.
After settling into my seat, I noticed the back page of a magazine sticking out of the seat pocket in front of me. The picture was of an elderly woman smiling at her merry sons. Instantly, I got a brief flash of my family, the family I had left behind.
‘Son… Please don’t leave us… Your brothers need you, and I need you…’ a voice rasped in my mind. The voice, vague and uncertain at first, brought a sense of regret that sent a chill down my spine. I thrust it away but it stubbornly returned.
‘Anthony, please don’t do this to me. I lost your father, and I cannot afford to lose you again. Please…’ Mother’s voice brought back the pain that had for so long plagued my cold heart. Tears sleeked over her wrinkled face as she begged me not to leave. But my cold heart did not give in as I left them behind.
Deep in my heart, I hated myself for being the good son, the good brother, and the good person I was used to be. I was foolish, spending my life caring for the old hag and her retarded boys. Now, I am free to live without them. This is it. This is the PERFECT moment.
September 11, 1998
It has been a year since I left home for this campus. Everything here is still strange and new. When I used to come home from high school, I was greeted with a warm hug from my mum, followed by my twin brothers’ funny questions about the trees, the sky, the telephones and anything that appealed to them. But now… I am greeted by icy glances from the passing students or a mere nod from my roommates. I began missing the family I used to hate so much. I longed to see the twins laughing at themselves and hear my mum’s constant naggings again.
Living on campus, a tight schedule suffocates me; theses and textbooks bury me under mountains of worry and stress. A long, forgotten voice has slowly emerged in me: “Mum, I love you.”
September 11, 1999
I was unsure of when or how, but somehow I feel as if I have fallen asleep. It soon becomes unclear what reality is and what imagination is. Amidst the cool September breeze, the course of my fate quietly flows like a river, struggling and unchanging. As I open my teary eyes, I find a pale dawn awakening alongside me. It is the same dawn that has followed me all my life. Somehow this morning, the halo of light somehow feels nearer and warmer than I have ever felt before. My family sits beside me, as if they too have been here with me all along. I awake from a seemingly vague dream, formed by hopes and desires, and there I lie on the balcony, with books and papers around me, my body buried in their blurring words…
September 11, 2000
I sat on the edge of my bed, swinging my legs back and forth. It was very sudden, that thoughts and memories of how many years had lapsed since my decision to leave home to study here had came to me.
All I needed now was my family. I found comfort in the photographs brought from home four years before.
It brought a smile to my sullen face. I saw a much younger version of me, my arms slung around my twin brothers, with my mum caressing my hair. Dad was always the photographer; however his imminent death had taken a toll on my life. But now, one thing I truly knew – was how I missed my family, my home. Tears glistened in my eyes; the darkness seemed unfriendly as I huddled under the blankets, holding the photos in my hands. I fell asleep, wondering through a world of dreams, and deep down in my heart’s core, it whispered: Mum… Jack... Jacob… I’ll come home soon…
September 11, 2001
Waiting in the wings was overrated for someone as impatient as me. I tried desperately to find a comfortable position in the plastic chairs that lined the corral-type area as I fidgeted and waited for my plane to dock.
Soon, I settled into my seat, thinking about my family whom I had not met for the last four years. Four long years had passed since I boarded the United Airlines Flight 175 that wafted me away from home. At last, I’m coming home. This is the perfect moment.
The buoyant craft ascended into the clouds as I sat quiet for a moment, sinking slowly back into the welcoming borders of Dreamland, and relaxed into a perfect ease…
All of a sudden, an announcement from the cockpit echoed through the plane: ‘Attention all passengers of United Airlines Flight 175, this plane has been hijacked and will change its course to New York City.
Please remain calm as we have armed men on board… ’
As I sat immobilized on my seat, screams and cries dispersed through the air. The passengers’ voices faded out when three men in shrouds wielding rifles stormed out of the cockpit, into the aisle, silencing the petrified passengers.
Sweat drenched my body. My heartbeat sped up making it the only thing that was audible. My head felt like it was spinning, like a thousand knives driving into my head. My breathing became quicker and harder as every second passed. My eyes were overwhelmed with tears with every blink. Saliva burned my parched throat.
After what seems hours, tall buildings began to appear through the window. Standing tall and proud at the city centre is the World Trade Centre. The craft I was in evolved into a metal beast that was heading towards the tall structure, as with every breath I took in, my own life unfolded before me and everything became slow... surreal. I gripped the photos in my hand and dialed a series of numbers on my cell phone as my world came crashing down.
‘Hello? Mum? It’s… It’s Anthony here… I’m terribly sorry for not giving you a call all this time. I really miss you, mum. Please say hi to Jack and Jacob for me. Don’t worry, mum, I’m on my way home…’
“Mum, I love you.”
This story won the “Highly Commendable Award” in the Royal Commonwealth Society International Essay Writing Competition 2009.