On The Plaza 9/11 8:43am
worked on the 54th Floor World Trade Center 2. On Tuesday 9/11, I was
on the plaza of the World Trade Center when I saw the first plane hit
WTC 1. It was 8:43 am.
thanks for both your coverage of the WTC tragedy, and you coverage of our neighborhood in generalmy story is not particularly noteworthyi had a 9am class at parsons on tues, and was late, so in the subway when the attacks happened-i got up on 6th av, and saw people standing around, and thought there was a car crash on 6th avdidn't event look up at that pointit wasn't until i got up in the classroom floor, which had a wall of windows looking out onto the WTC, that i realized the horror of what had happened...
the good to come out of this tragedy has been a.) the realization of the extreme courageousness of the fire, police and rescue units, and b.) the millions of acts of kindness and help, large and small, in the wake of the catastrophe. I was especially low last Fri. night, until I went to Union Square, where the display of humanity, reason, and empathy helped restore my faith in humanity. It is especially important that we all understand and appreciate the beauty and fragility of the tenuous web of humanity, which has been demonstated time and again in the past few days.
in closing, i am attaching a file (see below) that i hope you could post as a reminder for thought and compassion as our nation moves from recovery into revengethis isn't as much for us who live here as for our relatives and friends who live around the countryplease read and pass on, so that we don't help bin Laden achieve his goals by following blindly down his path of hatred and intolerance... thanks, and keep on keepin' on, peace always,
Yesterday I heard a lot of talk about "bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone Age." Ronn Owens, on KGO Talk Radio allowed that this would mean killing innocent people, people who had nothing to do with this atrocity, but "we're at war, we have to accept collateral damage," and he asked, "What else can we do? What is your suggestion?" Minutes later I heard a TV pundit discussing whether we "have the belly to do what must be done." And I thought about these issues especially hard because I am from Afghanistan, and even though I've lived here for 35 years I've never lost track of what's been going on over there. So I want to share a few thoughts with anyone who will listen. I speak as one who hates the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden. There is no doubt in my mind that these people were responsible for the atrocity in New York. I fervently wish to see those monsters punished.
But the Taliban and Ben Laden are not Afghanistan. They're not even the government of Afghanistan. The Taliban are a cult of ignorant psychotics who captured Afghanistan in 1997 and have been holding the country in bondage ever since. Bin Laden is a political criminal with a master plan. When you think Taliban, think Nazis. When you think Bin Laden, think Hitler. And when you think "the people of Afghanistan" think "the Jews in the concentration camps." It's not only that the Afghan people had nothing to do with this atrocity. They were the first victims of the perpetrators. They would love for someone to eliminate the Taliban and clear out the rats nest of international thugs holed up in their country. I guarantee it.
Some say, if that's the case, why don't the Afghans rise up and overthrow the Taliban themselves? The answer is, they're starved, exhausted, damaged, and incapacitated. ÊA few years ago, the United Nations estimated that there are 500,000 disabled orphans in Afghanistan--a country with no economy, no food. Millions of Afghans are widows of the approximately two million men killed during the war with the Soviets. And the Taliban has been executing these women for being women and have buried some of their opponents alive in mass graves. The soil of Afghanistan is littered with land mines and almost all the farms have been destroyed. The Afghan people have tried to overthrow the Taliban. They haven't been able to.
We come now to the question of bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone Age. Trouble with that scheme is, it's already been done.
The Soviets took care of it . Make the Afghans suffer? They're already suffering. Level their houses? Done. Turn their schools into piles of rubble? Done. Eradicate their hospitals? Done. Destroy their infrastructure? There is no infrastructure. Cut them off from medicine and health care? Too late. Someone already did all that.
New bombs would only land in the rubble of earlier bombs. Would they at least get the Taliban? Not likely. In today's Afghanistan, only the Taliban eat, only they have the means to move around. They'd slip away and hide. (They have already, I hear.) Maybe the bombs would get some of those disabled orphans, they don't move too fast, they don't even have wheelchairs. But flying over Kabul and dropping bombs wouldn't really be a strike against the criminals who did this horrific thing. Actually it would be making common cause with the Taliban--by raping once again the people they've been raping all this time.
So what else can be done, then? Let me now speak with true fear and trembling. The only way to get Bin Laden is to go in there with ground troops. I think that when people speak of "having the belly to do what needs to be done" many of them are thinking in terms of having the belly to kill as many as needed. They are thinking about overcoming moral qualms about killing innocent people. But it's the belly to die not kill that's actually on the table. Americans will die in a land war to get Bin Laden. And not just because some Americans would die fighting their way through Afghanistan to Bin Laden's hideout. It's much bigger than that, folks. To get any troops to Afghanistan, we'd have to go through Pakistan. Would they let us? Not likely. The conquest of Pakistan would have to be first. Will other Muslim nations just stand by? You see where I'm going. The invasion approach is a flirtation with global war between Islam and the West.
And that is Bin Laden's program. That's exactly what he wants and why he did this thing. Read his speeches and statements. It's all right there. At the moment, of course, "Islam" as such does not exist. There are Muslims and there are Muslim countries, but no such political entity as Islam. Bin Laden believes that if he can get a war started, he can constitute this entity and he'd be running it. He really believes Islam would beat the west. It might seem ridiculous, but he figures if he can polarize the world into Islam and the West, he's got a billion soldiers. If the West wreaks a holocaust in Muslim lands, that's a billion people with nothing left to lose, even better from Bin Laden's point of view.
He's probably wrong about winning, in the end the west would probably overcome--whatever that would mean in such a war; but the war would last for years and millions would die, not just theirs but ours. Who has the belly for that? Bin Laden yes, but anyone else? I don't have a solution. But I do believe that suffering and poverty are the soil in which terrorism grows. Bin Laden and his cohorts want to bait us into creating more such soil, so they and their kind can flourish. We can't let him do that. That's my humble opinion.
The phone started ringing at around 10am, which is really early in my house.
It has to be telemarketers, I thought. Telemarketers who call again, and again. I lay in bed looking out the window. The sky was especially blue, except for one patch of very white cloud, which seemed to blend seamlessly into the blue behind it. It was a kind of cloud I didn't usually see, and I wanted to look at it for a while. The phone kept ringing, and I kept ignoring it. Even if it wasn't telemarketers, it had to be for my roommate, who had probably just gone to bed.
Then a voicemail notification appeared on my cell phone.
It was a message from my mother: "I'm calling because you work in Manhattan, and I want to make sure you're OK."
What the hell does that mean? I turned on the computer and saw that two planes had crashed into the World Trade center. There was actually a smoking hole in one of the towers, or so the posting on Slashdot said.
I turned on the TV and got a blue screen. Wow, that plane crash must have knocked out some of the broadcast antennas on top of the towers! This was a serious wreck! I wondered if anyone on the plane had survived, and if anyone in the towers had been badly hurt. I changed the channel and got another blue screen. Then another, and another. Finally I found a working station. The footage was being shot from an odd angle, so that it looked like the two towers were actually one tower. There was more smoke and flame than I expected. A lot more. I couldn't understand how a plane crash could have done this much damage. Then I saw footage of the crash and understood that it was a terrorist attack. Then I realized that one tower had collapsed entirely.
We're at war. I get sick to my stomach. I think about leaving the city but my girlfriend's teaching in New Jersey and I can't get to her. I can't even call her because this is a new job and I don't know the phone number.
I wake up my roommate and we watch the second tower collapse. At first we're just watching the live feed, listening to the anchors recap events. Then smoke starts billowing out of the tower much faster than before, and then the anchors see it too and begin talking over each other, then it goes down, just disintegrates, not even falling over but just falling apart completely and crumbling, dropping rubble all over the surrounding buildings. I feel like I'm going to throw up but I don't. Then I just feel afraid. We decide to go to the grocery store, partly because there might be a run on water, but also to have something to do.
Outside white ash was falling heavily, like acrid snow. People were wearing dust masks and everything stank of burnt plastic. One woman was sobbing as she walked down the street. My eyes were tearing and my mouth was full of little particles. It was impossible to believe that bits of the World Trade Center were falling out of the sky, blanketing the cars and the sidewalks like ash from a volcano. Halfway up the block my eyes and throat were burning. The particles in the air felt like fiberglass insulation. We turned and went back into the apartment.
Once inside, we closed the windows. On TV, more footage of the towers being hit by planes. The same shots over and over again, the local news anchors sounding broken up, stuttering, stopping mid-sentence to correct themselves as new reports reached them.
We were still getting just one television channel. Video of the Pentagon in flames. Calls for blood donors. Asking people not to use the telephone except in emergencies. Some new footage from downtown: white ash everywhere. And planes hitting the Twin Towers, the same footage over and over.
Washington, where I grew up and where my family still lives (in the Maryland Suburbs, not the District), had also been hit. There were fires on Capitol Hill, and at the Washington Monument, and at the Pentagon. A passenger jet had crashed in Pennsylvania. US airspace was closed and all planes were being grounded, but four other possibly hijacked planes were still in the air. International flights were being rerouted to Canada.
I started calling people to let them know I was OK. My office is less than half a mile from World Trade, and most people just know that I work somewhere in the financial district, so there was good reason to be worried about me, and I wanted to reassure everybody. But my cell phone didn't work. Apparently, neither did anyone else's. I could make local calls, just not to cell phones. Pretty useless in New York! Finally I managed to get through to the voicemail on my own cell and change my message, so that at least anyone calling me would know that I was OK.
I sent email to coworkers and my family and friends, trying to find out if anyone was lost or had lost someone. Slashdot was covering the story. The New York Times and CNN were just white pages with logos at the top and links to stories about the attacks. I signed off and turned on the radio. Static on NPR. I flipped to Hot97 and got a news feed. The AM stations were mostly working as well, but nobody seemed to know anything more. Frustrated, we decided to try the supermarket again.
The ash had stopped falling and the day was bright and beautiful, and everyone was outside. It felt like a parade or a celebration, except for all the dust masks. Some people were crying, some people were unconcerned and others, like us, looked and felt completely confused. We saw a UPS driver telling off someone who had tried to hitch a ride out of town with him: "I give you ride -- if something happens I'm gonna get sued! Forget it!"
At the supermarket, people were calm, though everyone was discussing the attack. The local guy who talks like a two-year-old kid was standing at the deli counter with me. I felt glad to see him. I was also glad to see the market staff and the guys hanging around on the corner across the street. I was glad to see everybody, and everybody looked good. And alive. Very, very alive.
Nobody seemed to be making a run on food or water, so we bought breakfast and went back to the house. The next three hours was spent going from the TV to the radio to the Web. Emails and voicemails started to filter in. Reports that Capitol Hill and the Monument had been attacked turned out to be false. Reports about the four planes still in the air suddenly ceased. Everyone in my department at work seemed to be OK. All of my friends who I thought might have been in the area seemed to be accounted for, though no one could get in touch with anyone from my previous job; a staging outfit based in the World Financial Center, at the foot of the Twin Towers.
At five o'clock I had to get out of the house. I carried my bike downstairs and rode along Fifth Avenue, toward downtown Brooklyn and the lower tip of Manhattan. There was a plume of smoke in the sky that stretched from Lower Manhattan all the way across to almost below the crest of the Slope behind me. The pretty cloud I had been looking at that morning in bed had been the leading edge of the smoke plume. A few blocks and debris was falling again, though very lightly. I could still smell burning plastic, though when the wind was blowing. All of downtown Brooklyn smelled like fire.
I ran into a friend as I was riding down to the waterfront. She was taking pictures, as were many, many other people. She said I was the fourth or fifth person she knew that she had run into. That's something I love about cities like New York and Chicago-- when something goes wrong, people go out in the street.
I rode down the highway that runs along the river, people were stopping their cars and getting out to look at the damage. Smoke, and white ash and the smell of burning plastic. The wind shifted and the air was filled with dust that burned my eyes and irritated my skin. I stopped and tied a rag around my face and then it wasn't so bad, though I wished I had brought goggles to keep crap out of my eyes.
At the promenade at the foot of the Brooklyn bridge there were people of all ages and races, many of them with cameras, nobody crying, everyone composed, shaking their heads, looking silently at the smoke and taking pictures. I thought: these are all New Yorkers. Speaking Chinese and German, Hebrew and English, Spanish, and that's just what I heard in the half hour I sat on the promenade. I looked at the city for maybe half an hour. It is beyond belief. Even looking straight at it, I couldn't really accept what had happened. I remembered an interview I had heard earlier that day, the poet laureate saying that the absence of the World Trade towers itself would be a monument to the thousands who died in Manhattan today.
On the other side of the bridge, the highway and approach were completely empty except for occasional emergency vehicles. I could see red, white and blue strobe lights flashing all along the water on the Manhattan side. At one point three buses drove away from lower Manhattan, so much white dust blowing off of their roofs that it looked like they were on fire. The river was full of tugs and ferries, and I thought I could make out an aircraft carrier through the smoke.
Riding back, the approach to the Brooklyn bridge was swarming with cops, the Manhattan side closed off with police tape, no one going through but cars with flashing lights. On Atlantic Avenue I saw a parade of Sanitation vehicles headed for Manhattan: backhoes and bulldozers, the kinds of machines you normally never see on the street, as well as dumptrucks. The caravan took almost five minutes to pass.
I also saw a lot of really normal stuff as well. Parents yelling at kids, pot smoke drifting through the air, more people than usual standing out on the street talking, but a lot of people also walking around and going in and out of stores and houses as if nothing were different today, though I'm sure if I'd stopped and asked them they would have had something to say about it. Coming back, kids were playing on my block, yelling across the street : "I'm not allowed to cross the street!", dust masks around their necks.
Guliani went on TV and asked everyone to continue working, not to shut the city down, not to "give in to terror." He's right. My building was closed today, and probably will be closed tomorrow, since it's so close to World Trade, but I can't wait to get back to work, and back to Manhattan. This city is the first place that ever felt like home to me as an adult, and no one's going to take that away.
Care of Suburban Angst
9/13/01 [Care of Rumproast]
Nothing is funny right now. Occasionally the air in Brooklyn turns sour from the dust, debris, and smoke floating over from Manhattan. I used to see the World Trade Center when I walked down the street, across the East River. I used to see it from my bedroom window when the tree in our backyard lost all of its leaves. A mighty landmark is gone along with several thousand of the people who worked in it. New York City seems so small now. The world seems so small now.
Fortunately all of my fellow Roasters (Dan and Noah) and friends who worked in the area have been accounted for and are safe. One of my pals actually worked in the WTC 4 but was late for work. Another friend worked in the World Financial Center next door and was on the street, a short distance from his office, when the first airplane struck. He thought it was a missile. He ducked inside the nearest store, called his father, and found out what had happened. He waited for things to calm down and ran north, turning to see people jumping from windows ninety-stories up. Then the second plane struck. He said time stood still. The concussion was so powerful he could see the air molecules move in front of him. He didn't stop running until he got to the Manhattan Bridge, many blocks away, being careful to make sure that there were buildings between him and the towers as he zig-zagged to the north east.
Tuesday, the day of the attacks, was surreal and oddly comforting. Friends and family were frantically calling to make sure that my wife and I were okay. People in the neighborhood stopped by to exchange thoughts and monitor activities on television. Fourteen hours of continuous (bad) news, but plenty of friends to share in our disbelief. A couple of trips to the roof to view the smoking hole where the towers once stood didn't accomplish much of anything. The level of bewilderment wasn't compounded by the sight or relieved. Just sustained.
The magnitude of what had happened didn't hit me until Wednesday morning. I walked down the street, looked to my right to see New York's new shallow skyline, and then went into the grocery store. It was so quiet. Normally I'd cherish the solitude, but at that moment it splashed reality all over my numbed disbelief. Everyone looked like they were moving in slow motionemotionally drained from the carnage they'd witnessed the day before. You could see the life had been sucked out of the stock clerks, the cashiers, and the customers. I wept quietly in aisle six. It all came home to me, figuratively and literally.
As I write this there are still people alive in the rubble. Occassionally we get good news about survivors, but mostly the silence of the rescue workers is deafening. My thoughts and best wishes go out to the policemen, firemen, doctors, nurses, volunteers, and, mostly, the friends and families of all of the victims of this senseless tragedy. Also, I'd like to encourage everyone to control their anger and refrain from directing it at people whose ethnicity or religious beliefs are alien to you or apparently indicative of nonexistent alliances. Please don't be as uncivilized, thoughtless, and cruel as the monsters who committed these senseless acts.
The world seems so small now. Let's do our best to build it back up again.
from our home in williamsburg,
peter and i have a pretty stunning view of the manhattan skyline, including
where the world trade center was (that still feels weird to use the past
tense). tuesday morning my friend liza called me and said her phone wasn't
working right but maybe we should reschedule our date to get together
at 10am. then gina called me and asked if i was watching TV. she told
me 2 planes had crashed into the world trade center and that it was on
fire. i pulled aside our blinds and could see that the south tower was
completely gone and the north tower was in flames visible even from brooklyn.
peter and i rushed to the roof with cameras in tow and spoke to neighbors
who had just witnessed the second plane take out the south tower. as we
listened to the radio reports in a complete state of shock, the north
tower also imploded. at that moment, i felt like i would throw up. several
women on the roof began to sob. a massive cloud of dust and smoke stretched
over the east river.
Monday September 17, 2001
It has almost been a full week since the attack on the World Trade Center.
The events of the past six days are unlike any other events in my life.
The outpouring of love and support for the City of New York is unprecedented.
Personally have received hundreds of email and calls from friends and
family to just to send prayers and thoughts. No one can prepare for this
type of tragedy. But let our hindsight allow us to prepare for the future,
hopefully a much less violent world than we have been living in for many
After walking a little further north we found a church with the doors
open. The church service we attended briefly was at the Church of our
Lady of Pompeii. What strange irony! The day was so beautiful and peacefully
quiet and the feelings of reverence and deep meditation were palpable.
The city was exhausted and in need of rest.
Note from the editor: The American flag to me is a metaphor for my belief in freedom and a symbol of my pride for our country and its people. While often being disheartened by the mistakes of our government, it is my sincere hope that its decisions in the upcoming days are wise and reflect the goodness of this nation. My thoughts and condolences are with all the victims of this tragedy. We will get beyond this as a community and as a country. In recent days, the news of racial attacks in the news have been simply disturbing. I urge people to chill the fuck out and remember that racism, hatred, and ignorance started this mess in the first place.
[email protected] | October 2001 | Issue 19
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