Tuesday, September 11, 2001, started the same as any other day, actually nicer than many. It was a beautifully clear and sunny morning as I sat at my desk with a fresh cup of coffee. I was on-line checking my email, unaware of events transpiring in New York and Washington and rural Pennsylvania. After shutting the computer off, a friend called asking if I’d seen the news. I sat in numb horror for the next three hours trying to take in what I was seeing on the TV screen. In the pit of my stomach I felt that the world was now a different place. In the core of my brain I knew that the world had changed.
Time and again since the tragedy unfolded, televised news reports have compared the day of terror to the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor that shook America on December 7, 1941. This attack goes far beyond the scope of what was inflicted on Hawaii 60 years ago. For one thing, the enemy was easy to identify then. Japanese fighter pilots attacked U.S. Navy ships. A nation had attacked another nation. A nation is easy to find. This recent attack is far more insidious. The idea that a group of unknown men could embark on a suicide mission and succeed in highjacking four commercial planes armed only with knives and box cutters is unnerving to say the least.
Witnesses kept saying it was like a movie, but if you were to walk into the office of a high-power Hollywood producer and drop this script on his desk, he’d reject it for being too unbelievable, even for a large-budget blockbuster film. He’d say that you were trying to combine three films into one. The highjacking and crashing of a plane in rural Pennsylvania would have been a shocking story on its own. The highjacking and crashing of a plane into the Pentagon would have been enough to put the world on
alert, and would have made for a fine Bruce Willis project. The highjacking of two planes and crashing them into the World Trade Center, and reducing the two towers into rubble is off the scale. The special effects department would be lambasted for making the towers implode the way they did – too unrealistic.To put all these events together on the same morning is just plain nonsense.
Make that, complete non-sense.
Time seemed to stand still. The stock market was closed. All airports were closed. All major network television programming suspended except for coverage of the disaster. No ads. Even Major League Baseball canceled all its games. By striking at the heart of New York City the attack was effectively an attack upon the whole world. The Big Apple is as cosmopolitan a city as you can find and the disaster is sure to have claimed the lives of people of all races, religions and nationalities.
Later that night at 11:00, still reeling from the images and information that had bombarded me that day, I found myself looking out the same window through which the sun had shone so brilliantly that morning. The view had been radically altered from what it had been earlier that day. A small Muslim mosque across the street from where I live was on fire, the result of an amateur attack with what appeared to be a Molotov cocktail thrown into the doorway. My wife called the fire department and we found ourselves standing on St. Laurent Boulevard, watching the scene as firemen rushed to the scene and doused the flames. We felt nauseous. We knew the world had changed that day. Like everyone we had spoken to, we felt a little less secure.