A French stuntman had walked a tight rope
strung between the twin towers in 1974…
“Oh my God! How could this happen!……. After learning about the
two aircrafts having crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center
in New York, Dr Surinder Singh’s initial reaction was of disbelief,
anger and surprise. Himself an expert on terrorism having fought militancy
in Punjab with supercop K.P.S.Gill as the Inspector General of Border Security
Force(BSF) and incharge of all the 30 battalions of the Force involved
in anti-militancy operations in Punjab at that time and later having worked
in Jammu and Kashmir also, this retired BSF IG could not believe for a
while that terrorists could even go up to the extent of blowing the majestic
twin WTC towers. Afterall, during his three visits to the United States,
he had visited WTC a number of times and had beautiful memories associated
with Manhattan where he used to take a stroll every evening.
Like thousands of other Indians who were worried about the safety
and security of their kiths and kins in New York and Washington after the
terrorists strikes, Dr Singh also made frantic calls to his relatives in
various parts of the US and India. After repeated attempts to reach them
through e-mails and telephone calls, Dr Surinder Singh ultimately
learnt about their safety. Among his 60 relatives living in various parts
of New York only, a few of them were working in buildings adjacent to the
WTC. Barjinder Singh Prehar, an IT expert who is the son of his cousin,
was in his office in the nearby building at the time of the incident. Immediately,
he was evacuated from the building along with other collegues.
Besides the concern for the safety of his own relatives and other
Indians who live in New York, Dr Singh also thought about the safety of
over 50,000 people who worked in the twin towers. “I became worried about
the people working there thinking how they would be able to come out as
the lifts and elevators would have been stopped due to snapping of the
power supply. Never did it occur to me that these beautiful majestic buildings
which I used to see everyday during my stay in New York would be reduced
to rubble,” said Dr Singh. Terrorism, he could never believe, would strike
the United States with such a fury.
Dr Singh who is a renowned strategic expert with a doctorate in strategic
affairs from Gwalier University, distinctly remembers the day when he had
visited the WTC towers along with his wife Mrs Shashi Singh in the summer
of 1997. Having landed on the JKF international airport on 23 July 1997
from India, Dr Singh and his wife visited the WTC the next day only.
Having seen these majestic towers which were visible from every place
in New York and ferried along its coastline and clicked several photographs,
he cannot stop talking about this beautiful building . Even after a lapse
of almost four years, he still reads out from the notes taken by him on
blue pages during the visit to the towers…..The WTC towers were targetted
by the terrorists in 1998 also and had resulted in the killing of 6 persons……A
French stuntman, Phillipe Petit had walked on a tight rope strung
between the twin towers on 7 August 1974 …..And that he himself visited
the towers for the first time on 24 July 1997 along with his wife, the
next day after they arrived in America along with his wife to attend the
wedding ceremony of his younger brother Birjinder Singh’s daughter to an
Dr Singh has relatives scattered all over the United States and Canada.
Over 15 families comprising over 60 members live in New York alone. Most
of these had migrated to the United States during the 1984 riots except
for his younger brother Birjinder Singh, a product of Ohio State University
who had migrated to the US in late sixties only after his graduation from
Jamshedpur university in metallurgical science.Birjinder lives in Pitsburg
in Pennyslvania. Of the five districts of New York - Brooklyn, Manhattan,
Long Island, Bronx and Queens, most of his relatives live in Queens which
has the maximum concentration of Indians.
Dr Singh vividly remembers the rainy day when he had enjoyed his visit
to the WTC as a tourist. While rest of the stories of 110 storeyed structure
housed the offices of multi-nationals, the last two floors of the twin
towers of the World Trade Center in Manhattan were open for the tourists.
Having paid ten dollars each as the entrance fee at that time, Dr Singh
and his wife remember each minute detail of their half an hour stay at
the top floor.
“They had a viewing gallery, shopping gallery and virtual cinema among
many other things of tourists’ interest.” said Dr Singh adding that a 3-D
film was shown to the tourists after making them sit on on a chair. One
would enter the world of virtual reality and you would feel as if you are
sitting in helicopter and they are taking you to a ride of the entire city.
You would infact see the skyscrapers, the Hudson river, the East river,
whole of NYC, Brooklyn and other areas etc.” From the viewing gallery,
human being loolked like anrs while cars were like match boxes.
A shy Mrs Singh recalls as how tightly she had gripped the chair while
watching the three dimensiaonal film as she was sacred of a fall from the
helicopter. “How real it seemed!” she said adding that when she saw the
pictures of an aircraft ( the second one) crashing into the second tower,
she felt as if she had come under an attack. “Despite the fact that we
were Indian we were very proud of the structure.’ What she had liked most
was the fact that the lift carrying 60 tourists at a time to top floors
took just 58 seconds .
“There were so many lifts but this particular lift for the tourist was
different and stopped nowhere but at the 109 and 110 floors. It went like
a rocket in just 58 seconds. Imagine….” says Dr Singh adding that he is
very sad as both of them have seen this marvel but their children would
not be able to see it. He doubted whether America could construct it and
if it does so, would it be as beautiful as this one or not.