A Solemn Anniversary

You can find our writer’s thoughts on 9/11, from last year, below the fold.


“A failure of the imagination”
by George Moneo

So where were you?

I was free-lancing at a nationally-known retail company that owns stores in malls all over the United States, including two large retail stores in the lower malls of the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center. I had been hired to tweak technical documentation and to write some new manuals and specification documents. My sixth month, the month of September of 2001, 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 through the end of that month. The mood on that fateful day was already depressed and sullen.

That Tuesday morning, so clear and blue, I was in the small office they had assigned to me, having coffee and reading emails. It was 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. I frankly did not suspect anything; I knew about the 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. I started to follow the event closely. By 9:20, after the second attack and 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 to go to the nearest television to see what was happening. I felt helpless and angry. We were under attack.

(I flashed back to another day over eight years before. On the last day of a consulting gig, I happened to be in New York City on a cold and snowy February 26, 1993, when the World Trade Center was first attacked by apostles of the religion of peace. I had seen fire trucks and police cars rushing downtown, sirens and lights blaring, from the place I was having lunch. Since I had taken a cab from there directly to LaGuardia Airport to catch my flight that was leaving at 2:00 PM, I did not find out that it had been a terrorist attack until I was on the plane and called my wife and mom on an AirFone.)

I was able to get to the already packed lunch area on the ground floor where there was a large television set bolted to the wall. The sight on the screen was horrendous. Both buildings on fire. The people, those poor people. Some folks started talking to the employees in the stores. We heard through the grapevine that the employees were confused because they had been told to evacuate, then to stay, then to leave. Screams had been heard during those telephone calls. With about fifty other people, I saw the first tower collapse. Sobs surrounded me. I was in a state of shocked disbelief. I had to leave to have a cigarette. A little after 10:15, while still smoking ouside, I received a call from my sister-in-law who was living in Maryland at the time. I have never forgotten her words: “George, they’re attacking the Pentagon! What the hell is going on?” Was this the beginning of the end?

After 11:00 AM they let most of the non-essential employees (and consultants) leave. My wife’s project, a project she had worked her ass off to organize for months, had been cancelled by 11 that morning. I went to pick up our 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 10 hours, and the next day, and the day after that, watching the news coverage, seeing the carnage, and that terrible, terrible sight of smoke rising over the smoldering ruins, the people running away from the Towers, covered in gray dust, some in dust and blood, the people jumping to their deaths as the favorable option to burning alive, the second airplane hitting the tower and the resultant orange and black fireball, the second tower collapsing: The ruins. These will be the signal images of that day. My wife gasped when she saw the replay of the towers collapsing on themselves. She had not seen it happen live. We cried.

I was witnessing a seminal moment, the destruction of the twin towers of World Trade Center in lower Manhattan, two buildings I’d visited and marveled at. I’d gone to the observation deck to view New York City in all its glory. I’d eaten at Windows on the World. I’d gone to the malls under the buildings to shop and then catch the train to mid-town. The World Trade Center weren’t just buildings; they were a symbol of American ingenuity, know-how, and our indomitable can-do attitude. That great symbol died on September 11.

The 9/11 Commission wrote 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. The American People are guilty as well. We 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 and having fun. Please, don’t bother us with all that negative stuff, OK? We just want to be left alone to do whatever this great freedom we possess pushes us to be our bliss. But the last time we could afford to feel that was on September 10, 2001. On September 11, we came face to face with an implacable enemy that has sworn itself to our destruction. It has been working at it for 13 centuries. It doesn’t matter what country that threat comes from: Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria and its allies; it doesn’t matter what terrorist group it comes from. What matters is that we can no longer ignore the danger we face.


The view from Fifth Avenue
by A. M. Mora y Leon


At first glance, it’s a very unremarkable picture, perhaps something snapped by accident. But if I tell you it’s Fifth Avenue, downtown Manhattan, and that strange diagonal of white in the distance, cutting across an obviously blue sky is the pulverized World Trade Center on the horizon, would it make any difference? This is New York City on 9-11, viewing the horror from the center of the city.

9-11 had started in the black of night for me. I had been emailing with a woman in Georgia about Bin Laden’s attacks on Caspian Pipelines and in pirate actions in the strait of Malacca. We agreed he was getting more active. I was up late that night, 3:30 a.m., making phone calls to Thailand for my work. I walked back in the black of night through the south Bronx where I lived, amused that the Bronx was so safe at that hour, contrary to all expectation.

When my clock radio woke me the next day, the first thing I heard on Bloomberg radio was that the tower had been hit. From the radio report, it sounded like some Cessna pilot who couldn’t fly straight, odd as heck in weather as good as this. I really pondered that – how could anyone get lost in this weather … and then the second tower was hit. And I knew in an instant it was Bin Laden.

But in a weird way, I was in denial. I said to myself that today would be a huge hassle and it was election day and I absolutely had to go vote for Mike Bloomberg. As I left the house to vote, I started to feel sick. My neighbor called out from the window above and asked if I’d heard. I told him I was getting a stomacheache thinking about it. He said he was, too.

I rushed off to vote. The poll worker told me the first tower had gone down. But she wasn’t sure if she heard right. I was stunned but vowed to get to work. I looked up at the overhead elevated railway where the subway cars normally roared through .. and I noticed they were empty. It wa rush hour. The subway guy said there would be no train service but there was still a little bit of bus service if I got there fast enough. They’d stop that too pretty soon. And they’d only go to The Hub in the Bronx, no further. I had to try to get on that. I got on and a Turkish girl I was next to said she heard that the second tower had fallen. I thought that was definitely the territory of urban legend, but we would see.

We got off the bus at the hub and started walking south, through unfamiliar territory. Three of us banded together – an illegal alien from Ecuador and a Muslim Turkish girl who’d just lost her job and was looking for another. We saw camouflaged troops at the gas stations. We walked up to one and asked what the deal was. He said that the first batch of firefighters were dead, so the Bronx ones were called up to fight. That left the Bronx unguarded, which was why they were called.

Little did I know, I would have to walk ten miles in my high spiky heels to get to work. But I was in a hurry to get to work. It never occurred to me to stay home, home was the last place I wanted to be, it would be to admit defeat to stay home, I thought.

Had to get to work, had to get to work – the two people with me, thrown there by fate, felt the same way. Hadda. The Ecuadorean who was willing to walk to Brooklyn for his construction job. The Turkish Muslim girl named Yasmine who’d been laid off from her job at a public relations firm in Washington, D.C., and was now volunteering to dress the models for fashion week. Surely Fashion Week would not be cancelled over this, would it? She did not think so, so she had to get to work.

On the way down, we discussed previous disasters we’d been through – she talked of the Turkish earthquake and I talked of the 1989 San Francisco Earthquake and our Ecuadorean talked of volcano blasts.

Nothing was like this though – we just struggled to grasp it, and denied to each other that it was anything other than a local story over the six hours it took to walk to work. She desperately tried to reach her mother in Turkey by cellphone but the signals were not working. As she continously tried, we passed into Harlem, from Harlem into the Upper East Side, and from the Upper East Side into Midtown, from Midtown into Grand Central, from Grand Central to Chelsea to further south. I didn’t actually know it was ten miles – I learned how big New York was on that one day.

We passed shops selling drugstore type items, with postcards on stands on the outside – people were weeping at the sight of them, and some were buying the cards.

Inside a store, we got our first news of what had really happened. It was strange – the fiery inferno was ahead of us, but we all prefered to watch it on TV inside the shops. So we watched awhile, trying to grasp the awefulness of what was before us.

It was so hot, but at Bloomingdale’s, which we finally reached it was blessedly cool under the awnings – we were getting so tired as we walked and walked.

At this point, hundreds of white-shirted guys from the NYMEX – their badges still on, but their colored jackets off, men who’d been very near the WTC crash walking the other way. Eavesdropping, I could hear them talk on their cellphones, saying that they were scared, voicing apprehension. We still felt we didn’t know what was going on. “When is the subway gonna get running,” I asked the subway lady at the subway stop near Bloomingdale’s. “Soon as we can,” she said. We pressed for details. We got none. We had to keep walking. It seemed endless.

After 3 p.m., I got to work. My face was covered with soot. I scraped it off, and it left railroad tracks from my fingernails. But my boss had left for the day. The remaining employees were glued to the TV set. Many were ‘dust people’ – those who’d managed to pack one suitcase from their apartments downtown, and make it to work as their only refuge, hoping someone would take them in. Of course there were many offers. But I was too tired to work and all I did was look at the television set and discuss Bin Laden with everyone else. I knew it was him, I had been emailing with a woman in Georgia who told me how evil and active the monster was.

I went to my desk later on, and noticed my flashing answering machine – with dozens of messages. Missing, everyone thought I was dead. Then I looked at my email – all my classmates thought I was dead too – no one had heard from me. I made calls to tell everyone I was all right. One said she was just sure that I had gone shopping that morning at 7 a.m. at Century 21. She thought I was that hardcore a shopper to do that. My mother thought I had run to, not away, from the disaster, being in the news industry.

Then I called people I wanted to talk to – bond traders – a favorite bond trader at Fleet bank in Boston – who worked closely with Cantor Fitzgerald. Was Bill Meehan, a Cantor analyst all right? He did not know. And he knew just as little about his own friend except that he was hearing it was ‘bad.’ It was too soon to tell, but Cantor was hit hardest. Then I called the son of the builder of the World Trade Center, whose name was on the building. I had never heard him so sorrowful. He said he didn’t care whether it was rebuilt or not, the damage was too great. I called my Malaysian diplomat friend at the United Nations … it was painful to remember that we had met and become friends at a World Trade Center conference on piracy and bin Laden. I asked if the Malaysian Mission’s reception was still on that night. No, postponed till next week, he said. He was so sad. I sent emails – and wrote of what it was like on the bulletin board I liked. One of the key posters there was dead at the Pentagon.

After that, the guards told us there would be more terror attacks and we were right in the path of them., We’d have to leave. I found a subway route, very distant from my home that went up into the north Bronx, by a convict center, that would take me back, but it was dark and I was scared of the Bronx. Nothing happened. I was exhausted. And I walked right back to work the next day.


Appeasment or action?
by Ziva

September 11, 2001 started just like any other work day. I was up and about, getting ready to leave for work. As was his habit, my husband was in the living room watching the morning stock market show on CNBC. Before leaving, I sat down next to him to spend a few quiet moments together before the day became hectic. And then it happened, the show’s backdrop was a window with a view of the World Trade Center and we watched as the first plane crashed into Tower 1.

I have to say, my very first reaction was that it was a terrorist attack. Then the show’s hosts were speculating about possible scenarios, and I hopefully agreed that it was just an accident.

Then the second plane hit, and we all knew… this was not an accident, this was deliberate, this was an act of war; the reality of the horror became apparent. For long moments suspended in time, I sat with my husband in stunned silence.

I had to leave for work, and as soon as I was on the freeway, I called my daughter. She was also starting her commute. She loves New York, and she was crying. We talked and talked on our cell phones. Sitting in traffic, I looked around, that’s what everyone else seemed to be doing as well.

Listening to the radio, I hear that the World Trade Center Tower 2 has collapsed. So too the wall of emotion I’d been holding back, and sitting alone in bumper to bumper traffic, I am sobbing.

As that days terrible events unfolded, I remember thinking this was an act of war, our nation would mobilize, much as it had for WWII. We know of course that didn’t happen. One of the greatest disappointments in my life has been learning the truth about the “left” in America. Before 9/11, I knew we did not agree politically, now I know they support the terrorists, they support the tyrants, they are my enemy, and we are at war. Too harsh an indictment of some fellow Americans? As citizens of the United States of America, a country governed by the people, we all have the responsibility to infuse ourselves with enough knowledge to choose political leaders who will protect our interests. Those who are not willing to take a stand, those who advocate appeasement, or plead ignorance are either lazy, cowards or traitors.


Unintended Consequences
by Henry Louis Gomez

September 11, 2001 was a normal Tuesday morning for me. I’m not usually an early riser and this day was no different. I wasn’t feeling well and decided to stay in bed a while longer and call my office later to tell them that I might come in later in the day, if at all. At about 9:15 AM my phone rang, it was my boss and good friend Jose asking me where I was. I explained that I was in bed, under the weather. He told me to turn on the TV, that a plane had crashed into one of the towers at the World Trade Center and that they weren’t sure whether it was an accident or an act of terrorism.

I turned on the TV and watched the images of the burning building. Then tower 2 was struck and all of a sudden this wasn’t just an accident. It was the end of the world. Like everyone else, I watched events unfold and heard the reports from the Pentagon and rural Pennsylvania.

Our country was facing a crisis and I was glad that the man at helm was George W. Bush. I remember thinking to myself that the Elian Gonzalez episode had not been in vain. At the time of the Elian affair, many felt that the boy had an unfulfilled destiny in the US. After all why had God spared his life when all who accompanied him were killed? But I believe that Elian being sent back to Cuba led directly to George W. Bush’s victory over Al Gore. A razor thin margin of 500 or so votes in Florida was the difference. A difference that may have not existed if many of us in south Florida had not made it a point to oppose the Democrats in that election.

To tell you the truth, my life has not changed all that much since 9/11. I wasn’t directly connected to any of those 2,996 who perished as a result of the attacks. My career has advanced; I live in a nicer house, etc. Of course the attacks changed my thinking and made me aware of the war that had been declared against western values. But for the families of those victims, life will never be the same. Working on the 2,996 project has been an incredible reminder of that fact. The course of our country’s history has been permanently changed. Hopefully our future leaders will keep our collective 9/11 experience in mind as the years pass. I know I will.


by Val Prieto

I called my mother from my office a few minutes before 9 AM. I was to have lunch at her house that day and she’d asked me to call and verify that I was coming over.

“Mami? Soy yo. Ill be there at noon.”

“Esta bien,” she said. There was no “Mi hijito” or any “Ay que bueno” as was her way so I immediately noticed something was wrong.

“Que paso, Mami?” I asked. “You feel OK?”

“Si,” she said. “Im just watching the news of the plane that hit the tower in New York.”

“The what?”

“The plane hit the tower in New York. Its all over the news.”

I then hung up and tried to get on one of the News websites but I kept getting server errors. Everyone, it seemed, was trying to get on news websites at the same time to find out what was going on.

I mentioned it to my coworkers but at the time, I thought it had been an airplane hitting the control tower at one of New York’s airports. It seemed reasonable to me from what my mother had told me. “A plane had hit a tower.”

After a few more futile moments on the net, I called my mother again for more information and she began relaying it – an airliner had hit the World Trade Center, one of the towers was on fire at the top floors, there’s smoke all over, there’s a huge fire, people are ruinning around all over the place, there’s dozens of fire trucks and police and…

Right then, in the middle of her of her report she screamed “Ay! Dios mio! No puede ser! Ay Dios mio!” I could hear her fumbling with the phone and the sound of it hitting the floor.

“Mami, que paso?” I screamed into the phone. “Mom? Whats happening? Mom?”

I headr the sound of her picking up the phone and then through sobs, my mother managed to tell me that a second plane had just hit the other tower. “Ive got to call your Tia Lulu” she screamed and abruptly hung up on me. My cousin Alex, Tia Lulu’s son, had worked at the Trade Center.

I announced what had just happened to the rest of the office through tears, everyone at that moment had already turned on their radios and were still trying to get info from the internet. I cried at that moment not because of the carnage that right then and there I couldnt even imagine, but because of the pain Id just experienced my mother going through.

I asked my bosses if I could leave to tend to my mother and was told rather tersely that we had a deadline that had to be met. I would have to wait until lunchtime.

When I arrived at my parent’s house a few minutes after noon, I found the TV news on full blast with the images of the airplanes hitting the tower and the smoke billowing and then the towers falling and the dust cloud and the people running for their lives being replayed over and over and over again. Mom and dad were on the sofa. My father was stoic and red eyed with his arm around my mother, her face buried in my father’s chest, sobbing uncontrollably.


Families in danger
by Amanda Dufau

It was a typical Tuesday morning. I had just settled into my morning routine of drinking my cup of coffee and checking my emails when there was an announcement on the radio, “An airplane has hit one of the twin towers in New York”. I got online and tried to find more information. By the time some details were available, the second plane had hit. I remember getting a call from Eric, and he told me what he was seeing on TV. I can’t remember if he was at work or at home, but he was telling me about the disturbing images occurring in Manhattan. I told him I’d try to call him later, but I had to make sure my loved ones were okay. You see, I have family and friends in New York, New Jersey, and the surrounding states, and I wanted to account for every single one of them. The first one that came to mind was my cousin Alex, who lives and works in Manhattan. I knew he was in Midtown and the towers were in lower Manhattan, but the uncertainty of the situation could mean he was in danger. I tried reaching him by email, but to no avail. My grandmother had gotten word from her sister, his mother, that he was fine, so that made me a bit more at ease. I then frantically called my friend Nick, who was a flight attendant at the time, living in Boston. The lines were completely jammed, but whenever I made a connection, I’d leave him a voicemail. By 3 o’clock I found out he was stuck in California. He had been in mid-flight, headed to the East coast, when the attacks occurred and they pilot received orders to go back to their departure point. Throughout the day I was able to ensure that my aunt, uncle, cousins and friends from New Jersey were okay. I feared that for one reason or another, they had headed to the city that day. Thankfully, they were all safe. Unfortunately, so many others weren’t, and so many other families weren’t as lucky as ours.

I later found out a friend had been on assignment nearby, and had witnessed the whole thing from his office window. I know that the images I saw online and on television can not even compare to having seen this live, happening before your eyes.

The rest of the day, that evening, that week, and for several weeks after that, I was in complete disbelief. I, like so many others, was so angry. How could this happen? Here, in the United States? I cried every time I saw images of New York, the Pentagon and Pennsylvania. I cried when I found out my best friend’s brother-in-law, who is a firefighter for my county, went over there to help however he could and to help recover his lost brothers. I cried when I saw my friend Nick a few days later. I cried the next time I saw my cousin Alex. And I cried when I went to New York a year later, Labor Day weekend 2002. From four blocks away, approaching the site and that fence that held all those notes, cards, and pictures dedicated to loved ones lost surrounding the site and the neighboring blocks, I cried until there were no more tears. I think I stood at the site, staring at the mounds of rubble that still remained, for about an hour. I just could not believe it, once there, that it was true, that it really happened. The towers were gone, and so were all those people.


We Will Win
by Robert

As the case with the majority of Americans, I was at work on the morning of 9/11. I had just come back from some mundane meeting about a mundane subject when a few co-workers commented that a plane had hit one of the towers. At the time, we thought it was some horrible accident. TVs were tuned to the news, but no one understood th reality of what was happening. A few minutes later, news arrived of the second tower being struck, and at that point it was painfully obvious as to what was happening. We were being attacked. I did not see the second plane hitting the tower unlike many others who saw it live, but my wife did see it, and she was affected in a way that I wasn’t.

During the several days of hazy reality that followed 9/11, my wife, seven-plus months pregnant with our oldest daughter, wondered what kind of world we were bringing our daughter into. I didn’t have a good answer to that question, except that bad things had happened in this world before, and somehow we had found a way to get through. I’m not sure I believed those words myself, but it sounded comforting at the time.

Looking back five years later, I truly believe what I said. Americans are a tough bunch, despite our slipping confidence in the war on terror. When push comes to shove, we know how to respond. Still, too many of our own have forgotten this. We’ve forgotten that war isn’t easy, especially when we’re fighting a cowardly enemy who prefers to immolate himself and not face the consequences of his actions. We’re fighting a moral battle – don’t be misguided by those who insist on setting moral equivalency bounds.

As President Bush has said so many times, we will win. We must win.


Never Forget
by Ventanita

It was Tuesday and I was late for work. As usual, I had the Today Show going on in the background – something about a Cessna crashing into one of the WTC towers. Not the start of a good week – yesterday I had found my ex was with someone else – and it was about to get worse.

Settling into my open cube at the office the phone rings. A woman’s worst fear. My ob-gyn was calling to tell me my Pap was irregular and they needed to make a biopsy. I break down and start to cry. I’m only 31. At the same time I read my friend tells me through messenger another plane hit the other tower. What?

“We’re under attack!” Someone yells at the office.

I run to the kitchen, where the TV was on and the entire company was watching. I gasp. I make it just in time to see the first tower fall. I can’t believe what I’m seeing. My eyes well up and I get goosebumps, as I realize that I’m watching people die. I’m in shock, and can’t believe when the second tower goes down. I thought it was a replay of the first tower.

“This is war,” I hear some say as I leave the area. Like Ziva, I expected big mobilizations after this. Strong retaliation, a show of force and power, and a country UNITED to face these bastards.

I spent the day in a daze, as much of my co-workers did. No one knew what to do, but call friends and family to see how everyone was doing emotionally. No one really worked that day – how could you? One of my printing suppliers came by with an impromptu printed USA Flag. I didn’t want to be alone, so I went to a friends house, where I watched non-stop the news coverage of the attack. I almost vomited when I saw the Arabs celebrating. I had never felt so much hate.

9/11 changed me forever in many ways. I am know prejudiced against anyone resembling a middle eastern physique…and I hate it. I don’t like stereotyping poeple or being prejudiced, but I now find myself suspecting everyone. If I see an Arab anywhere, I will wonder what he/she is up to, when before I wouldn’t have given it a second thought. I wonder everytime I get into a plane if I will make it home, or if some terrorist bastard will take me away from my family. As I write this, I am again crying.

As a nation we should’ve united against this threat, and all I see are people defending and appeasing Islamofascists. This weekend I took my husband to a Roger Waters concert as an anniversary gift, and felt more like I was being indoctrinated pro-Arab, pro-Palestine, pro-Hezbollah, anti-USA, anti-Bush and Blair, anti-Israel. And people just sat there, and sometimes even cheered. Their hatred of W more than their love for their country and their way of life; not realizing they are SUPPORTING people that are AGAINST the very values they hold so dear – FREEDOM OF SPEECH and SEPARATION OF CHURCH & STATE.

I don’t know where we as a nation will end up. I fear we have not learned our lesson, we have not realized what we are against. These people will not give up, even if we decided to live in a bubble and disassociate from the rest of the world. They will not stop until they create a Muslim world.

My biggest fear? That it will not be until we are hit harder and deeper that this nation will come together, will put aside their differences and will learn that a UNITED front is the only way these Islamofascists can be defeated. In the end, I know we will win. What I don’t know is the toll that will get us there.

Everytime I go to NYC, I cry. There is a big gaping hole in their skyline, and there is a big gaping hole in our nation and in our hearts.

I will never forget the 2,996 WTC victims, the 184 victims of the Pentagon attack and the heroes of United Flight 93. Will you?