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realclearworld

September 11, 2001

I remember. I'll never forget.

ABC News Live: United Airlines Flight 175, seconds before crashing in to the South Tower

ABC News Live: United Airlines Flight 175, seconds before crashing in to the South Tower

Here is my 9/11 essay from 2009, reedited for this anniversary:

* * *

Ten Years. It's been ten years. The tears still well up and my body tenses with anger whenever I see footage of that morning. Photos, videos, audio, it doesn't matter. It still affects me the same way. I've been feeling like crap for over a week and I know it's this anniversary, this remembrance, this reliving of those events. As I've done each and every year since the events of that day, I watch the Fox News and ABC News coverage of the event as archived here. This is one of my rituals since the first anniversary; I don't ever want to forget what happened that morning. And ten years on, nothing has changed, the feelings are the same. September 11, 2001 is the watershed event of the second half of my life.

This iteration of our war with "radical" Islam began on November 4, 1979 in Tehran, Iran. 2009 marked the thirtieth anniversary of the takeover of our embassy, an act of war for all, except liberals and progressives. Four years later, the Marine Corps barracks in Beirut was blown up, and my favorite president left the Middle East instead of taking the war to them; the Achille Lauro was hijacked in 1985 highlighted by the heroic act of throwing an invalid Jew overboard; TWA Flight 103 in 1988, an event recently brought back into the limelight by the condition of the only convicted Libyan terrorist in that country's perilous civil war; the First Gulf War in 1990, with its indecisive and portentous resolution; the cold and snowy February 26, 1993, when the World Trade Center was attacked for the first time by Ramzi Yousef and the apostles of the blind Sheik Rahman; the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996 (an act of war); the US Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998, on the same day, within minutes of each other (two more acts of war); and the attack on the USS Cole in 2000 -- yet another act of war, as if the previous three were insufficient for the appeasers, the hand-wringers, and the cowards. All of these events preceded the events in New York City ten years ago.

It’s not as though we hadn’t been warned.

On that Tuesday morning ten years ago, so clear and blue and beautiful, I was freelancing at a nationally-known retail company that owns hundreds of stores in malls all over the United States. Two of those were large retail stores in the lower malls of the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center. I had been hired to write some new manuals and specification documents and to tweak some technical documentation. It was my sixth month there, and it was to be the penultimate month the corporation would be headquartered in Miami-Dade County; it was moving to the mid-west with the usual lay-offs, transfers, resignations, and tears. My consulting gig was scheduled to end on the last day of September. The mood was already depressed and sullen.

I was in the office they had assigned to me, having coffee and reading emails. A little after 9:00 AM a CNN news bulletin arrived in my email inbox that said that a small airplane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I immediately logged on to CNN.com and saw the breaking news flash on the home page. Frankly, I didn’t suspect anything; I knew about the B-25 bomber that had crashed into the Empire State Building in the 1940s and I went along with what the initial reporting had to say. My mom called to tell me the video and pictures she was seeing on CNN so I started to follow the event closely. By 9:20, after the second plane struck, amid the frantic bulletins being put out by CNN, I realized what had happened. My phone calls became frantic. I called my wife, who had been organizing a huge event at her work, ad told her to go to the nearest television to see what was happening. I felt helpless and angry. We were under attack again, this time in a unprecedented fashion.

I was able to get to the already packed lunchroom on the ground floor where a large television set bolted to the wall was displaying horrifying images. Both buildings on fire, the smoke, and those poor people trapped on the upper floors. Some of the employees who were in store operations started calling the two stores in the North and South towers. We heard, through the grapevine the crowded lunchroom had become, that the employees were confused because they had been told to evacuate, then to stay, then to leave, again. Screams had been heard during those telephone calls. My mind can scarcely imagine what was behind those screams. With about fifty other people, I saw the first tower collapse. The sound of uncontrollable sobbing surrounded me. I was in a state of shocked disbelief. I didn't know what to feel and what to do. I went outside to clear my head and think while smoking a cigarette. My wife was not answering her cell phone. Around 10:15 I answered a call from my sister-in-law who was in the service at the time and living in Maryland. I'll never forget her words: "George, they're attacking the Pentagon! What the hell is going on?"

After 11:00 AM the company let most of the non-IT employees and contractors go home. My wife's project, a project she had worked her ass off to organize for months, had been cancelled. I went to pick up our then five-year old son who had been dismissed early from his kindergarten class. After my wife arrived home, a little after two that afternoon, she and I spent the next ten hours (and the days after that) watching the news coverage, seeing the carnage, and that terrible, terrible sight of smoke rising over those smoldering ruins. We saw the second airplane hitting the tower and the resultant orange and black fireball. We saw the footage of the people running away from the Towers, covered in gray dust, some in dust and blood, and of the people jumping to their deaths as the favorable option to burning alive. We saw the first tower collapse. We saw the second tower collapse. My wife gasped when she saw the replay of the towers collapsing; she had not seen it happen live. We saw the carnage at the Pentagon. We saw what remained of the heroes of Flight 93 in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. But the ruins, those awful ruins of what had been there hours and days before, those I think, will be the signal images of that day for me. We cried, together. We were witnesses to a seminal moment in history.

Since that day I've listened to countless stories from friends, acquaintances and colleagues who were there, in New York City, near Ground Zero. The story that affected me most was told to me by one of my best friends. Because of a fortuitous desire to have a real breakfast, he, along with his partner, were running late for a 9:00 AM meeting with the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, then headquartered in the World Trade Center.

"George," he recounted, "that day remains so clear in my mind's eye I can relive it almost at will. It was like being in an episode of the Twilight Zone. Around 9:30 that night we were walking down Lexington Avenue towards 49th Street, trying to find a place to have a bite, and we were the only people on the street. Imagine that! Midtown Manhattan and we were alone, everything was closed. I saw people sleeping in hotel lobbies who had not been able to go home. Eerie doesn't come close to describing it." He went on to tell me, with emotion in his voice, that the folks they were meeting that day became like family, concerned as he was with whether they had survived or not. Ironically, the only one scheduled to meet with them that did not survive that day was John O’Neill, ex-FBI and the new head of security for the Port Authority.

I visited and marveled at these structures, I went to the observation deck to view New York City in all its glory. I ate at Windows on the World. I shopped in the malls under the buildings and then caught the train back to mid-town. Every time I see a movie where the Twin Towers are featured in a long shot I seethe. The New York skyline is incomplete. The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan weren't just buildings, they were symbols of American ingenuity, of our know-how, of our indomitable can-do attitude, of our unapologetic capitalism. Those two great American symbols died on September 11. Only the future will tell us what else we lost on that day.

The flawed and biased 9/11 Commission Report stated that our government exhibited a "failure of the imagination" in not seeing the warning signs that had been pointing inexorably to the attacks of 9/11. I agree. But, the American people are guilty as well. Most of us tend to live our lives in such a way that we want -- no we demand! -- bad news to go away. We want to live in a bubble, living our lives in hopeful optimism, being happy, having fun. Please, don't bother us with all that negative stuff, okay? We just want to be left alone to follow our bliss. But the last time we could afford to feel that was on September 10, 2001. Especially in today's world, with an administration that has coddled and supported the worst regimes in the world.

On September 11, 2001 we came face to face with an implacable, ruthless, and merciless enemy that has sworn itself to our destruction and the destruction of Western Civilization. It has been working at it for almost 14 centuries. It doesn't matter what country that threat comes from: whether Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Libya, Egypt, or whether it's Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, PLO, or whether it comes from US citizens, within our own borders, radicalized by mosques we dutifully ignore so as not to offend. It doesn't matter what flavor it is, whether Sunni, Shia, Salafist, Wahhabi, secular Baathist. It doesn't matter. What matters is that we cannot ignore the danger that we, our children, and our children’s children, face as we hurtle into the second decade of twenty-first century.

18 comments to September 11, 2001

  • From American Thinker: "Clarice's Pieces: Ten Years After 9/11" by Clarice Feldman

    It's the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and an appropriate time for people to recall where they were on that day and how they reacted. I don't really need an annual reminder though. The day is so much a part of me that I still often dream that I am in the World Trade Center jumping from a top floor, watching as the havoc around me takes place so close to the Hudson River and the Statue of Liberty, thinking of my loved ones and hoping -- in my last minutes -- they are well. Like so much of that tragedy, the really important things -- the doomed WTC jumpers, the dancing in the Arab streets -- was underplayed or censored by the media.

    Living in the District of Columbia, I remember the outrage, confusion and horror of that day and many days that followed, including the anthrax attacks and fears of them that rattled the city for weeks after. And on quiet nights I often imagine still hearing the tramping of thousands of commuters walking miles home from the center of the city when all other forms of transport were unavailable. They are so much a part of me, anniversary reminders are unnecessary.

    Quickly the fear and outrage we felt was considered by the elite to be too dangerous to acknowledge or validate. They consider the rest of us moronic murderers it would seem. Instead of reminding us of the truth of that day, they fed us a steady stream of gelding, feminizing pap about religion of peace, multiculturalism, overwrought (never realized) fears and claims of anti-Moslem discrimination and harassment, and blame shifting to us the acts of genuinely murderous thugs. [...]

    • From American Thinker: "Why I Became A Republican On 9/11" by David Lawrence

      Some of my friends disappeared into a mushroom cloud on 9/11. Many more who I wish were my friends also died.

      The fallen left me here among the apologist Democrats. I felt that the best of us died on that day. I was forced to listen to the Democrats blaming our three thousand deaths on Americans, tsk-tsk, building air force bases in Saudi Arabia. They got this idea from paranoid schizophrenic Osama bin Laden's ramblings in his Afghan cave.

      The Democrats said we weren't multi-cultural enough and that if we accepted Sharia Law the Moslems wouldn't be so antagonistic towards us. It didn't bother them that Sharia Law allowed no separation of church and state, despite liberal insistence on separation of church and state.

      Nor did it bother the Democrats that Jews and Christians weren't allowed in Mecca. Still, they felt the Moslems had the right to build a mosque on every street corner in America.

      The Democrats accused us of protecting Israel from suicide bombers with cruel fences. They wasted our money on clean energy which doesn't exist and they refused to drill in Anwar or the Gulf yet they pretended they wanted to wean us off foreign oil.

      So what could I do?

      I had to become a Republican. Nothing else made sense. It was the only position that didn't smell of treason.

      • From Big Hollywood: "September 11th: My Thanks to Joel Surnow and His Fellow Hollywood Subversives" by John Nolte

        The Washington Times is wrong. Hollywood wasn’t AWOL in the War on Terror. In fact, just the opposite is true. Hollywood summoned every ounce of financial and star power at their disposal to fight this war.

        Unfortunately, they chose to fight for the other side.

        If our history is written by honest brokers, this generation of Hollywoodists will be remembered as those who openly enabled evil and spent hundreds of millions of dollars making bombs for the enemy — box office bombs. Over a dozen of them, specifically engineered with equal parts lies and hate and propaganda to undermine morale at home and on the battlefield in the hopes that we would lose this war.

        Never forget the crime committed in New York, Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon on that terrible day. And never forget how Hollywood turned on your country.

        There were some exceptions, however, and chief among them was Joel Surnow the co-creator of “24.” Each week, for eight seasons, he gave this country a hero who openly loved America, did what was necessary to protect her, and who was willing to pay a terrible price for it. ”24? also delivered the goods. Cathartic, exciting and righteous without being self-righteous, the addictive adventures of Jack Bauer became an oasis in a cesspool of Hollywood product delivering the exact opposite message.

        As the face of the program, Surnow paid a price for his apostasy and because he’s a smart man who knows how the world works, my guess is that he knew that someday he would. We all watched as some of the biggest forces in the world of entertainment and politics ganged up to exact their revenge with “The Kennedys.” Don’t believe for a second that wasn’t a form of payback.

        For whatever it’s worth, we thank you, Joel Surnow. You can’t imagine what it meant to millions of us to have something to count on over those weeks and years — something that told us we weren’t crazy and we weren’t alone.

        And thank you to the subversives who used their art and magnificent artistry to take our side through thinly veiled allegory. Thank you Frank Miller and Zack Snyder for “300.” Thank you Christopher Nolan for “The Dark Knight.”

        There were others. Men like Gary Sinise who tirelessly support the troops and David Zucker who took the fight directly to that anti-American pig Michael Moore. There is also Robert Davi, Jon Voight, Kelsey Grammer, Michael Moriarty and those like them who have bravely and eloquently spoken out against the talking points issued by their Hollywood Overlords.

        For fear of missing one, I won’t attempt to name everyone in Hollywood who did the right thing, who openly supported our military and refused to participate in the resume-enhancing undermining of our country. Within the context of the whole of the entertainment business, however, they make up a heartbreakingly short list. But you know who are and we know who you are and we thank you.

        The rest of you can burn in Hell.

  • Honey

    I remember on that day the many Muslims who proudly proclaimed they were Americans and that these acts had nothing to do with them. They were ashamed that those who did this were Muslims. They were given air time on television. What happened to those Muslims? I also remember the many commentators who asked why they hate us so, the most offensive question imaginable.

  • Honey

    We should also mention The Unit, a wonderful show about patriotism, duty and taking risks for your country because it is the right thing to do.
    Some of my liberal friends love this one and 24. I never could figure it out because these programs were antithetical to their anti militarism ideas. But I never told them about this inconsistency because I like silently enjoying it.
    When I saw that David Mamet was behind The Unit. I didn't understand and thought he was as inconsistent in his thinking as my liberal friends. But I knew he was too intelligent for that. That's when I learned of his coming over to our side. Aha. I never mentioned that to my friends, either.

  • FreedomForCuba

    "If our history is written by honest brokers, this generation of Hollywoodists will be remembered as those who openly enabled evil and spent hundreds of millions of dollars making bombs for the enemy — box office bombs. Over a dozen of them, specifically engineered with equal parts lies and hate and propaganda to undermine morale at home and on the battlefield in the hopes that we would lose this war. "

    This is why I cannot stand Hollywood these days.

  • asombra

    The problem is not so much the usual show biz suspects but the fact they're condoned, petted, stroked and run after as if they were actually relevant or important. Of course the complicit media enables them, but it wouldn't if they didn't sell, and the problem is the number of people buying. It's comparable to the Obama problem: he's not the problem; it's those who voted for him.

  • Doorgunner

    Reflecting on events since, I now know as I knew then that GW's strategy fo invading Iraq was absolutely correct then as it is now. He picked a fight with the SOBs where he knew he could win it and won. They came like flys to Iraq where we flexed our superior might with fire power and mobilty and we smashed them as they came from all over the Muslim World, in flat Iraq with seaports and plenty of air bases around we flattened their funky asses, nailed their fate in Falluyah and from them on Bin and his dirty scum never recovered. Doing the same in Afghanistan would have been another failure of Soviet proportions, no ports, with logistics carried thru Pakistan and little flat terrain to unleash the tanks and gunships, is a mule country where all that can be done is done by a minimum number of Special Forces calling in B52 precision strikes on the usual scum bags every spring when the snows melt. GW gave Israel another 10 years to breath by the sandwish of Siria and Iran between Israel, Iraq and Afghanistan, now may God save Israel 'cause from this side they've got no help but at least they had that time to prep for what's coming their way, as for us it will be the next generation of fanatic assholes (and they reproduce fast) since the last one we wiped out.

    • From Powerline: "Ten Years On" by Steven Hayward

      George Will notes this morning that the 10th anniversary of Pearl Harbor passed quietly in 1951, with little public or media notice. It is quite true that the growth of insatiable mass media, and the sentimentalization of American life in the post-War era that is difficult to quantify but is nonetheless evident, would compel the excess of pathos we’re going to see played out today on TV. If I have to sit through one more interview with Tom Brokaw furrowing every wrinkle on his hangdog face I’m likely to break my TV.

      It is significant, by the way, that in the wall-to-wall coverage we’ll see today, we won’t see two things: the media have assiduously avoided showing the awful video of the people who jumped from the towers, and we won’t see any video of the throngs in the Arab world dancing wildly in the streets celebrating on 9/11. Both might stir up politically incorrect sentiments. Instead, as Mark Steyn points out, we’re going to be treated to a lot of self-loathing equivocation that will avoid recognizing pure evil for what it was and still is. [...]

      • From Big Government: "9/11 Was Declaration of War" by Larry O'Connor

        [...] The liberals and libertarians mired in their denial of the reality of the world we live in are dangerous and must be answered with vigor. 9/11 was not a “criminal act”. And, despite what President Obama might say, we are not in a war against Al Qaeda. By narrowing our focus and pretending that we must only respond against those whose fingerprints can be found on the 9/11 attack is an invitation to our enemies around the world to wage war on us through proxies like Al Qaeda. A Commander-in-Chief Ron Paul, with his pathetic call for Letters of Marque and Reprisal, would allow enemies like North Korea, Iran and Venezuela to send hundreds of organizations like Al Qaeda toward our skyscrapers all under the protective banner of “rogue criminal act”. [...]

  • Honey

    Asombra, and yet, and yet, most of their anti American movies have been box office failures. So things may not be all that grim.
    George, I started to watch the coverage this morning and I had to turn it off immediately. It was as you described it. And I was watching Fox News. There was lots of furrowing of brows and talk of all of the damage. The Islamists must have enjoyed all this attention to their bad handiwork.
    Bush was on for a couple of minutes and he showed more class and real compassion than Obama has shown in his entire presidency so far.
    We are at war and the enemy is not us.
    I would prefer that today be used to remember those who perished, yes. But also to celebrate the greatness of America. Perhaps they did that later. But the few minutes I watched that was not my impression. So I gave up and used my day better to enjoy the Phillies and the Eagles.

  • FreedomForCuba

    George,

    Regardless of his fiscal views Ron Paul is be the GOP's Obama (if not worse) because Ron Paul's naive and imbecilic isolationist views would lead America into a catastrophe of much greater magnitude that September 11, 2001.

  • Honey

    George and Freedom, you are both singing my songs.
    I may have a favorite or two but any candidate on our side is okay except Ron Paul He is unacceptable.

    George, that was why I turned the tv away from the 9/11 coverage. These are not crimes; they are acts of war and it is Islamism anywhere that is our enemy. We may have pretty near vanquished Al Qaeda. But we still have mischief makers in prisons, mosques and many other places here and in Cuba in other neighboring countries. Also all over the world.
    Why is the msm Obama's foolhardy threat to Mubarek, without good enough intelligence to know the obvious result, there would now be no effort to destroy the Israeli embassy in Egypt. But that is not important to the msm. Yet, if it were a George Bush decision that resulted in a catastrophe, oh how quickly they would be there to insult Bush repeatedly.
    Why did the msm not criticize Obama when he did not support the Green movement in Iran, or when he supported the tyrant Zelayev in Honduras? We all know the answers.
    I pray the American public is beginning to get the picture.
    Come on 2012!

  • Gallardo

    As much as they want to say now, given the 10th anniversary, "We'll never forget", I lived and observed this nation enough during the last 10 years to affirm that they indeed forgot and quickly. By the 6th and 7th anniversary I couldn't help but see most of this population with aversion, disillusionment, and repugnance (and I still do to a big degree). Putting Iraq aside, despite all that happened on 9/11 one must see how they incessantly made Bush's presidency a living hell for the subsequent interrogations, the wire tappings, Guantanamo, etc.

    On top of this came the constant, yet stupid, "don't blame Islam" rhetorical trash to today see more veiled women in our streets (what a great contribution to our society), Michael Moore had his best decade, and all to be topped off in '08 with the election of some Islamic named anti-American ghetto socialist and church member of Rev. Wright's "God damn America" church. Granted, they not only elected him as president but as some sort of messiah.

    Oh I don't forget alright... One must see to believe.

    In fact, as much as I think Ron Paul is a crazy goat he sure is right that it was American stupidity, in major part, the culprit of such attacks materializing, along many things, by not permitting pilots to carry arms despite the American government knowing the dangers - as anyone who has inquired a little on the matter knows that the signs were there and that US's government at least knew that this plan was being cooked. They knew the danger was there yet never permitted the pilots to carry arms? Come on, are we to think that their government planes are not armed? The way I see it, hypocrisy, elitism, obstructionism, ineptitude, and failure to represent the American people.

    That Clinton administration was more worried on bullshitting than protecting the American people, simple as that. Clinton also had Bin Laden by the way and called off the hit at the last moment. Yet, who says this? No one, but just wait for Michael Moore to release his next commi trash to see a flock running to give him millions of dollars for it.

    I hope this grand nation gets its act together soon because such moronity, which is what they shouldn't forget regarding these past years, is taking a toll in all aspects.

  • Honey

    George and everyone, here is a good example of what coverage yesterday should have included:

    Reclaim America Pac
    Dear Friend,

    Reflecting back on September 11, 2001 on this 10th anniversary of the attacks, it reminded me of where I was on that day.

    I was a state legislator in Florida, and I was sitting in the Capitol in Tallahassee when these events were unfolding. Even though we knew what was happening was an important moment in American history, it was impossible to fully comprehend the impact it would have on our lives for so long.

    In fact, the last decade has been largely defined by 9/11. So much has changed. The world has always been a dangerous place, and America and our freedom have always had enemies. But usually it's been countries and nation states, leaders and armies that wore uniforms. And 9/11 changed all that.

    This was a cowardly act of terrorism that actually reached the shores of our country, killing thousands of innocent civilians and first responders, and altering all our lives forever.

    It was a deep human tragedy, and today we remember the people we lost on that day and their loved ones who have had to rebuild their lives. We remember all the first responders who risked their lives to save thousands, and particularly those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. We also acknowledge our friends abroad who joined us in solidarity 10 years ago and do so again today.

    Of course, in terms of the global landscape, 9/11 redefined the world in a way that we're going to be living with for a very long time. It reminds us that, even now, there are people all over the world who hate the freedoms that America stands for, that want to impose their world view on as many people as possible, and they see America as the only nation willing and able to stand in their way.

    What I'm proudest of is that America not only quickly stood up and recovered, but actually went out to bring to justice those responsible for the attacks. And 10 years later, the world is still dangerous and there are never any guarantees, but the people that attacked us are now no longer able to do the things they used to be able to do with impunity just 10 years ago.

    We, as an American people, should be proud of what our nation has stood for, once again defending the values we have always stood for - the defense of the liberties and freedoms of people all over the world.

    May God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.

    Marco Rubio

  • asombra

    Honey, I meant if they didn't sell as news, as celebrities, as people whose political opinions matter any more than mine or yours or anybody's. The absurdly juvenile obsession with celebrities simply because they're famous is a sign of weakness and decadence, not to mention stupidity, and I don't think it's merely silly; I think it's dangerous.

  • Honey

    asombra, I agree with there.
    That alar thing and the crying of Meryl
    Streep, oy. I am sick of them setting my standards to be sure. I want my incandescent light bulbs back and my tasty
    TastyKakes, which are awful now that they are so healthy. I can't eat them anymore. Damn.
    But the good thing, as I said before, is that their anti war movies all flopped. You'd think with all of those liberals in the country they'd be huge hits. But it was The Passion that made a fortune, not Fahrenheit whatever.
    Secretly I still have hope, and not the Obama kind.

  • asombra

    Those movies flopped because they were more about propaganda than entertainment, and most people don’t go to the movies to be given stealth lectures or sermons. Some people no longer go to the movies at all, or hardly ever, because they’ve become so disgusted with the blatantly politicized and agenda-driven crowd behind so much of what Hollywood turns out (including TV programs). The problem is that too many people continue putting up with and consuming what amounts to poisoned apples, as well as putting up with and enabling industrial quantities of presumptuous and overbearing celebrity bullshit.