The World Trade Center Disaster - All Our Worlds
posted by W-D Staff on 9/13/01
I remember the first time I saw Saving Private Ryan, I was so moved by the heroism and self-sacrifice performed by the American "children" of not so long ago... that I sat in stunned silence, not really able to relate to what it must have been like... to have that much fear, fighting an enemy in a foreign land. Nor could I even fathom the fact that the majority of these men weren't drafted to go fight the war... these men signed up voluntarily to go fight the enemy. The cynical part of me immediately looked around to modern day America.. and all of the bickering and in-fighting.. and thought, "We don't even appreciate all of the things these brave men and women sacrificed for us.".
All of that changed yesterday.
From the moment my Mom woke me up, to tell me that a plane had hit one of the Twin Towers... to actually sitting there, watching the second plane hit the other tower... to seeing the Pentagon in flames... to seeing the first tower crumble... to seeing the second tower crumble... to watching the ensuing aftermath and chaos... so many images that will remain embedded in my mind, have forever changed the way I view the country in which I am fortunate enough to have grown up in.
Having lived in NYC for almost two years... and having worked in the financial industry for almost five; I'm still in a complete shock as to just how many people I called colleagues and friends who are no longer with us after yesterday's wanton destruction. I'm still in a state of shock, where I don't even want to make calls to old associates in the city who could give me information on the status of all of the people we did business with who had their offices based in the WTC. I guess I'm still at the point where the mixture of hope and fear about all of them being okay.. is still outweighing the dread of knowing even one of them has died.
The only silver lining to the darkest cloud our country has ever seen, was indeed, witnessing the inherent compassion and brotherhood of the American people that isn't usually visible. To see all of the people in NYC helping each other in whatever way possible.. and witnessing all of our leaders putting politics aside and coming together, to give an appearance of strength and resiliency, made me nothing but proud that this is the country I am privileged enough to have grown up in.
I think back to all of the brave young men who lost their lives during all of our country's previous wars... and all of the women who lost husbands and children who grew up fatherless... and it dawned on me. Their sacrifice was surely not in vain... nor underappreciated. The fact that what happened yesterday was so shocking to all of us, is testament to the way of life, that all of our forefathers fought so hard for us to have.
I have lived for twenty six years in a country where I have felt safe to walk the streets without the fear of attack from another country. I look at my seven year old brother... whose life was forever changed yesterday. He will not know the feeling of safety that I grew up with, living in America... and to not be able to comprehend what he is even going through, has sparked something inside of me... something which I never even thought possible.
I have read on the internet, a lot of people's opinions about not overreacting or resorting to an "eye for an eye" mentality... and all I can think is, "The only reason you have that luxury to sit back and be so "rational" about what we should do.. is because of all of the men who came before us, who fought for the American way of life, that allows you to have that privilege.".
That way of life is gone now. Just as it was gone for a while sixty years ago... when Pearl Harbor was attacked. My generation's† grandparents looked at the fear in their children's eyes... and volunteered to fight to get the American way of life back for them. I'm looking at all of the children's eyes now... and thinking the same exact thing.
If it comes down to it... I say, "Sign me up."
New York City has always been sort of a "promised land" for me. Back when it was completely selfish and materialistic it was because there are actually things to do there...clubs to go to, sights to see, small tightly knit groups of sassy young metropolitan women looking for intercourse and the subsequent girl talk that would ensue, sports arenas, everything. I live, and have unfortunately (give or take a few months) always lived, right in the middle of Virginia. I'm too far away from Norfolk one way, too far away from Washington DC the other way, and too far away from Charlotte to the South to have anything resembling a "fun weekend." Most people 'round here's idea of a fun weekend is to close their eyes and sway their hands around in the air while fat guys in business suits and their bouffant-laden housewives sing hymns about salvation and how gross it is to be gay. Suffice to say I've been looking for a way out for a while.
I don't need a giant castle and predictable rides based on popular animated motion pictures or a comic shop on a Saturday night to be in a place full of "magic." Magic to me has always been about atmosphere, about being able to reach out my hands and touch and feel something that someone I admire has reached out and touched and felt. I got the feeling in the Babe Ruth museum in Baltimore, standing in the doorway to the room where he was born, feeling that chill of a life long since important still lingering in the cracked wallpaper and dusty old sheets. I got the feeling standing at Abraham Lincoln's feet in the Lincoln Memorial, partially because of all the emotion that went into building such an amazing sculpture for a man who wrapped his bleeding hands around the rope and dragged our nation through a Civil War, and partially because Jimmy Stewart always makes me cry there in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington."
The last time I remember having that feeling was every single moment I've ever touched the dirty ground in New York City. I've only been there once -- during a senior class field trip, which I guess was to show us that we need to set our sights higher than the sixteen dozen churches and convenience stores in Lynchburg. Every moment of that trip still feels like a dream, even the uncomfortable ones like me sleeping on a shelf because our school crammed way too many people in a two bed hotel room. I can remember skipping down Broadway with my hands in my pockets, watching hundreds of teenage girls clamoring to catch a piece of one of the Hansons on their way in to do Letterman. I can remember waving to Andy Richter in the NBC studios building and feeling like being the only person in the room to recognize him brightened his day. Most of all I can remember standing in the little alcove outside of Madison Square Garden, with my chin resting on a slab of concrete all too uncomfortable, and realizing how happy I was to be alive.
I am not ashamed to say that my third or fourth favorite person in the entire world is Madison Square Garden. It is a building that manifests every dream, aspiration, and goal I could ever imagine. It's the place where the New York Rangers, by all accounts the worst hockey team possible with Earth's gravity, by all accounts a team that the Mighty Ducks could give a run for their money (and I'm not talking about Anaheim either, I'm talking Charlie, Goldberg, Emilio Estevez, and that crackhead who can hit the powerful slapshot), brought home the Stanley Cup in 94. It's the place where Jeff Hardy ripped his shirt off, flashed the suicide guns, and swanton bombed D-Von Dudley through a table from the balcony to win the first ever tag team tables match. If I could live in a pup tent with my stoner friends on the sidewalk outside the garden and videotape up my nose about how "sorry I was" I would gladly do it. To me, the place, right there in the heart of New York, represents everything that is good in the world.
And the world, as it turns out, isn't very good after all.
I woke up on Tuesday morning standing approximately three inches from the television, squinting to see without my contact lenses. There was a giant flaming world trade center tower, and the other one was just...gone. Maybe I'm weird, but the most unbelievable thing about the whole attack to me is that the buildings are just gonna be gone now. It's like remembering your grandfather but not being able to place his face. It's a sick feeling, a feeling of hopelessness and loss for something you never had. It makes you sit there, with your feet crossed, hoping that Freddy Krueger would hop in and, for once, make everything better. If it had all been a dream it would've been a killer visual.
But it wasn't a dream...at least not yet. Whoever's dreaming this should go ahead and wake up so the rest of us can go back to having minds that don't race and strain and miss.
All the lame popular culture references that I should be applying to things like Burgertime video games or the Urkel Dance are all hitting me, one after another, like waves. I feel like Bambi and my mother just told me that man has entered the forest, or like George Bailey at the end of his rope, staring down into the icy water and wondering if it would just be easier not to be around anymore. I feel like Jem from To Kill a Mockingbird, finally being able to realize that there is evil in this world that affects me directly, by watching simple Tom Robinson become an "excuse." New York City is my Tom Robinson, because I'm too insignificant to help it survive.
I spent the day going "Oh my God, I hope Jen is okay" and "Oh my God, I hope Dave is okay," and for once in my life my emotions weren't so concerned with the general populous as it was with two of my best friends in the whole world. I can laugh about stupid teenagers in trenchcoats blasting away at chicks with metal fishies on their car without regret, or make jokes about Aaliyah not being able to "pick herself up and try again" and not feel bad about it, because they have no relevance to my life. I can't go back and edit my mind and say "oh, you're evil for thinking that" because I'm not...the only way I've ever been able to deal with something on a scale like that has been to make bad jokes about it, and hope that my friends know that they're just bad jokes. I can't remember having malicious intent in my whole life, but I can't keep myself from making stupid jokes and I hate myself for it...a good example would be all the times I've hit "backspace backspace backspace backspace" to get rid of all the Jessica Simpson and "Mad About You" jokes.
Why do I backspace those jokes now? Because I almost understand this one.
It's not like getting shot in your school for believing in God. It's not like a musician burning up in a plane crash because they overloaded it with camera equipment and suitcases. It's not even like Oklahoma City. It affects me personally this time. And you know why I don't feel so bad about that, or feel like a hypocrite because of that?
Because it's doing the same thing to the rest of us.
If I'd been Aaliyah's brother or the cousin of somebody who worked in the Oklahoma City disaster or the guy who printed up all the T-shirts for Cassie Bernall's family so they could make money off their dead daughter I would feel this way about each situation. But when somebody pilots and airplane into the heart of our very world and leaves nothing standing...it's not an "act of war" or a "terrorist attack" anymore. It's like Osama Bin Laden is lifting up the ends of our tables and dumping school lunch all over our clothes for no reason at all, while we were just sitting around talking about Star Trek. It's a slap in the face of everybody who's ever dreamed of something better.
Whether you're American or not doesn't matter -- even in Pearl Harbor they bombed an Air Force base, and not a giant building full of people who weren't doing anything to anyone. We can't go say "KILL THE FUCKEN RAG HEADS OMFG THOSE DUNE BUGGIES ARE GONNA DIE" because we don't know if they're even behind it. Sure, they're dancing in the streets and cheering for pain and suffering, but if I've seen any Indiana Jones movie I know that they're usually doing that anyway. It's the same idea that I will stand up and cheer when Christian gives "The One" Billy Gunn a one-man con-chair-to...because I HATE Billy Gunn, and even though I had nothing to do with Christian's decision I still applaud it. Those guys hate us, and I think it's common knowledge that even if we gave them golden hookers full of money and candy they would feel the same way.
So don't blame anybody yet. Wait until a guy in a turban shows up on television pointing his finger and proclaiming (specifically, at least) that his Jihad against America is on. Then we can have all the jokes about nuking them until their sand is glowing green. That's when we can break out the Space Wars satellites and giant laser-toting robots to fly over there and Air Slash them to death. I'm in no position to ask anything of anyone, but for anyone who has ever read something I've written or talked to me, remember this:
Those towers went up in the first place because of dreams, and they went down carrying 10,000 dreams with them. For right now, if one of those dreams were yours, sit with your face in your hands and cry...because it's all right. In times like this you are supposed to. Grab the Jen's of your life, the Dave's of your life, hold them close to you as much as you can and tell them how much you appreciate them. Because eventually something will be built in the place of the towers, and a whole new set of dreams will rise up into the sky and give stupid yokels from the backwoods like myself something to believe in.
I live about three quarters of a mile from the World Trade Center. I work about two miles away in mid-town Manhattan. Writing about what happened yesterday might be construed as begging for sympathy and attention. But not writing about it would just be impossible. I was sitting here at my desk reading through e-mails yesterday when a slew of people ran in saying, "Did you hear that? Did you hear that noise?" What I didn't hear, was what all of you know by now to have been a Boeing 747 aircraft plowing through a building where about 50,000 people went to work each day. When our entire floor rushed over to look out the window, clouds of smoke filled the sky, a full two miles away from us. And we all were paralyzed with shock.
Our floor consists of people who serve the most necessary functions in our bank (lending) and the least necessary (marketing). We all know it, members in each group will occasionally nod when walking by one another, but never do we speak. Yesterday was the first time these two groups not only acknowledged each other's presence, but hovered into a small office to watch CNN to try and make sense of the day's events together. For safety reasons, we were all urged to stay in the building as long as possible. Our pricey cafeteria was free for the day. Not once did I see anyone greedily take more than he needed. People who usually hurry through the line to grab food and get back to their desks, were more concerned that everyone around them could get a meal for himself.
I called my roommate who works downtown, only blocks from the WTC. When she finally emerged from her building into the smoke cloud all around her, she walked past a man covered from head to toe in debris from the wreckage. He looked on helplessly as people tried to extinguish their flaming bodies on the street. He watched people who struggled with the decision of being scalded to death or being trapped underneath the wreckage as they plummeted from 100 stories up, ultimately twitching on the ground for a few minutes before dying. My roommate made it back safely to our apartment, thank God.
While I was walking home, the smoke clouds loomed bigger, people walked by me holding masks and sweaters over their faces, camouflaged men holding AK-47s stood only two blocks from my apartment; people wore blank, dumbfounded expressions on their faces. Ironically, in a city branded as one of the most selfish and cold in the world, people showed humanity. Street corners usually filled with tables of handbags, watches, and panhandlers instead were covered with hundreds of bottles of water, free for the taking. Storeowners handed out free medical supplies and food. Again, nobody lurched to the head of the line to grab anything for himself. Homeless men played "America" and other songs of patriotism on harmonicas. People were standing in the streets, talking to people they never met before, asking each other if they needed help, where they were when the plane struck, if they were OK. No, most people weren't OK. Most of America won't be OK for a long time to come. But we were all communicating, trying to make sense of a horrible tragedy together.
The next few weeks, months, and possibly years will be the most challenging for Americans; those involved in rescuing victims, those who will be called to fight for our country, and all of us who will just try to understand what happened. And yet, after yesterday, after witnessing the most violent act of terrorism our country has ever known, and living within walking distance of the worst crime scene imaginable, I felt more safe than ever.
It's difficult to grasp what's happening over here if you don't see it with your own eyes every time you leave a building. I know that some of you feel a bit desensitized by the tragedy, and hearing that 10,000 people died yesterday just seems incomprehensible. I don't expect that anyone will finish looking at these pictures and believe they are real. I don't think that anyone will read my own isolated account and emerge with a better understanding of what's going on right now. But what I do hope is that every single person who blindly hates America, who complains about our politics, about our president, I hope that just for a moment you will stop and realize that patriotism is what's saving us.
(This was written today at work before noon, by hand, on notebook paper.)
People are calling this a ďsenseless tragedyĒ.
Thatís something I donít understand.
This tragedy makes perfect sense to me.
Osama bin Laden (and I say it is him because it has to be him.† Of course, I said the same thing about Frank Kovick and I was wrong,† So I guess Iíll say bin Laden or William Lambert) pulled his plan off to absolute perfection.† Hijack four planes and use them to strike/destroy Americaís various organs.
Target 1, our brain: Planes 1 and 2 strike and destroy the World Trade Center buildings, in an attempt to crumble our commerce.
Result:† † Buildings Destroyed -- Complete
† † Fall of Commerce -- Failure
Target 2, our eyes and ears: Plane 3 attempt to crash into the Pentagon.† Does not score a direct hit, but most of ground floor is heavily damaged.† Today we found out that this planeís original target was the White House.
Result:† † Building Destroyed -- Somewhat complete
† † Destruction of White House -- Failure
† † Cripple U.S. Military -- Utter Failure
Target 3, our heart: Plane 4, with hijackers we can only assume to be going after either Camp David, or Air Force One whisking the President to safety, is downed in Pennsylvania before reaching any target(s).† Once presumed to have been brought down by the Air Force, today it was revealed that the passengers, knowing they were to die regardless, rebelled against their hijackers and caused the plane to nosedive directly into the ground.
Result:† † Camp David Damaged -- Failure
† † Air Force One Damaged -- Failure
† † Harm to President -- Total Failure
Overall Results:† Many injured; many more lost; many, many more still alive and very pissed-off.
The plan, with the only hitch being the heroism and loyalty to America of the passengers on the Pittsburgh flight, was pulled off so precise, so calculated, so exact, so utterly perfect, it was like watching a scripted action scene from a Schwarzenegger movie.† People are calling this the ďSecond Pearl HarborĒ.† That is true, metaphorically, but Pearl Harbor (and I never thought these words would ever be spoken) pales in comparison to what happened yesterday.
True, Pearl Harbor was an immense tragedy, but it was also during a global war.† It was a sneak attack, they caught us by complete surprise. Was it unethical? Yes.† Was it strategy? Definitely. People seem to forget we were at war at the time.† What happened yesterday, however, was an act of cowardice at the highest level.† We were not at war with Afghanistan, we just happen to think the Taliban is a bunch of fuckers.† †
Yesterday, our opinion was upgraded to a bunch of soon-to-be-dead fuckers.
In my personal beliefs, when all four aircraft hit, there was a terrorist at the controls.† If I am a pilot, and American, even with a gun to my head, I donít see myself doing what a terrorist says.† The way I see it, Iím dead anyways, and Iíll be damned if Iím going to go while looking at a terrorist with a big, goofy, camel-fucking grin on his face.† Eat my shit, Taliban.
Then there is Nostradamusí writings.† He talks about the two brothers once separated by rage will unite under chaos, and also about the burning city.† Anyone who picked up the latest MAXIM and got past the pictorial of Meadow Soprano probably read the article about Saddam Husseinís two sons, Uday and Qusay.† Both of them are poised to take over the rule of Iraq, and both (especially Uday) have the potential to exceed their sadistic father in all areas.
So, when a Black Ops team takes out Osama bin Laden in the next few days, I for one believe we should take out Saddamís offspring as well.† While weíre at it, kill Saddam too.† Iím not a racist, I just have a hatred for people who fuck camels, and have nuclear and chemical weapons at their disposal, along with a terroristic background.
I spent my free time yesterday taking account of the few people I know in the area.† As I said on the forum, Jen is at home, safe.† Another friend of mine, Toby, his mother works in WTC Building 2/South.† When the North/1 WTC was hit, she immediately left her building.† I asked my friend what kind of mental hell he was going through.† He told me he knew his mother was alive, beucase to believe anything else was unacceptable.† Unfortunately, my other friend has not been accounted for.† Online, he goes by the name ďSickofitallĒ, and that sums up how most of us feel about the situation.† Real name Doug Farnham, he is a software tester on the 98th floor of one of the main buildings.† 98th floor.† You canít evacuate down stairs or elevators that have ceased to exist.† However, I still refer to Doug in the present tense, because of course, thinking anything else is unacceptable.
Start arming pilots.
If Fidel Castro can come through for our country, which I never thought possible, then you can come through for us even more.
People always say, ďIím proud to be an American.Ē
So letís act like it.
You think you're strong, but when a tragedy strikes it gives rise to self-realization. On the morning of September 11th, 2001, America realized that it was just as vulnerable as everywhere else; that one act of terror can destoy a lifetime of peace; that nothing can prepare you for devastation of this magnitude. I, too, realized that I'm not as heartless as I thought. Yes, in the past I've quipped about tragedies and the death of celebrities. I can be vulgar and off the cuff, but when something like this strikes it fills me with nothing but revulsion. Lots of people will be writing that, lots of them swayed by current opinion, believing they are saying the "right" things. When someone is murdered, or some psycho slays a handful of innocents, a typical moral panic arises - "It's an outrage", "My heart goes out", "I'm sitting here with tears in my eyes" etc.
This time it's different. This time you can't help but believe it, and this time I have no cute, sick jokes to make me look emotionally cold. Because I'm not that cold, and no-one on the internet is that cold. And no-one in real life is that cold. And shame on them, if they are. Shame on anyone, irrespective of political beliefs, who thinks that these fanatical, kamikaze slaughters were in any way just.
These senseless acts have broken the heart of America, and ripped through the souls of many, many families. I've experienced this sort of loss myself. I live in Northern Ireland, one of the most politically unsettled countries in the world. I've had relatives die, watched as friends cried when their loved ones were killed and witnessed the aftermaths of many bombs. Two years ago, an I.R.A bomb in a small Irish town ended or ruined the lives of a group of innocent shoppers - lambs to the slaughter. Killed because of their religion and nothing more. Senseless murders that solved nothing and senseless murders that continue. My own father, a wonderful and completely innocent man, was gunned down because he had the wrong religion in the wrong side of town. No other reason than that. It was an incident that robbed me of one of the two most important people in my life, denied me years of fantastic learning and fun experiences and devastated my close-knit family.
I still think of him everyday, wonder what might have been, what SHOULD have been and feel nothing but sadness for the scum who continue to perpetrate these cowardly acts. I take some solace that those who do wrong will face the ultimate penalty, but when we witness scenes like the World Trade Center bombing, scenes to which bloated Hollywood blockbusters have de-sensitized us, you can't help but clamor for the blood of revenge. The bible pleads that we "turn the other cheek", but how can you turn the other cheek in times like these? Despite the gut-wrenching scenes of Palestinians celebrating this "victory" (truly a victory for evil) in their own dusty streets, any rational human being can only see this as an unnecessary, revolting evil - a horrid massacre without equal. The more patriotic will cry for the loss of two cherished monuments, weep for the collapse of state buildings.
I won't and I can't.
Buildings are nothing but stone and metal, man-made and replaceable. I'm saddened, however, by the loss of so many thousands of inoffensive people, people who were innocently going about their daily lives, oblivious to the hatred and destruction flying their way. I was in New York over the summer with my girlfriend, enjoying life and lapping up a great city. A city that I instantly adored and a city that will never be the same again. I visited Dave when I was in New York, had a great time. Yesterday, although I knew he rarely ventured into the city anymore, I worried for his safety. I worried for Jen, too. Two tremendously positive and genuine people with their lives ahead of them. Dave had no reason to be there, but I know that fate can play cruel games. The one day you make a casual visit could be the last visit you make. Thankfully, Dave and Jen are fine, but my thoughts go to the thousands who aren't; the ironic end for the CNN reporter, flying home a day early just to spend time with her husband; the man who narrowly escaped the World Trade Center, elated, only to find that his sister was in the plane that exploded.
A lot of people will miss the overriding disaster in all of this. Yes, America was wronged. Yes, the country was breached. But not because some psycopaths decided to destroy American buildings - but because they decided to eradicate American lives. In one sick crash, lives were ended. Thousands of futures are no longer. And to think of the countless good, hard-working people who perished is the true torture. People with (presumably) no animosity to the vile that concocted this, but who died because they were taken to represent the "evils" of America. You think of the good, innocent people who walked and thought so freely just twenty fours before this atrocity, who thought about all the little things in life, who were maybe working hard to put their kids through college or just living respectable lifestyles and raising families. People you may be. People you may know.
No-one deserves that fate.
Don't think of the figures. Don't think of the rubble, the indignity and the propaganda. Think of the lives that have been erased. Now think of anyone special to you. Think about suddenly losing them. Think that maybe one day you'll smile at them, wave them off to work and never see their smiling face again. Never again will you enjoy their company, never again can you talk about future plans or share your little, private jokes.
I've felt the pain. And now thousands are feeling it.