Some Thoughts on the World Trade Center and Pentagon Attacks
11 September 2001

What follows are posts taken from my SFF.net newsgroup made from 11-15 September 2001 when the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked by hijacked commercial planes. I was in New York City, but nowhere near ground zero at the time. My girlfriend Terri works in midtown near the UN, and they evacuated her building around 10.30am on that day. My family also works in midtown, and they all made it safely home, too. We were all very lucky.

11 September 2001, 10.27am

I'm fine, Terri's fine. I'm home safe in the Bronx, and I ain't goin' nowhere. Terri's in midtown -- she's skittish as she's near the UN. Getting out of Manhattan right now, though, is a bit of a challenge....

I've got the TV on, and I'm damn scared right now.

6.46pm

Terri's home safe. She walked from 47th Street to a coworker's apartment on 72nd Street, then decided she had to get home, and so walked north. She made it to 157th Street before the 1 train was finally running again, and she took the train home from there.

We're both sitting here in the living room, going back and forth between CNN and a local station, and being both frightened and determined not to stay frightened for long.

Today has shown us both the best and the worst of humanity. The worst, obviously, is whoever is responsible for this (and while speculation points to bin Laden, speculation pointed to Arab terrorists after Oklahoma City, too).

The best, however, is the people of New York City, who have been magnificent. No panicking, no looting, orderly evacuations, and general behavior ranging from sensible to heroic. The city is already starting to get back on its feet -- people have been able to get out of Manhattan, after being in lockdown for many hours -- and tons of people have been volunteering their time. Plus, of course, the stellar efforts of the NYPD, FDNY, and assorted medical personnel.

The government is still working in the Pentagon, despite the attack, which is as it should be.

I plan to get some work done tonight, because I refuse to let the bastards win. The best way for terrorism to succeed is for people to be terrorized, and I won't let 'em do it.

9.24pm

Well, now I remember why I didn't vote for him.

It was a decent speech, but not a particularly inspiring one, and I found myself critiquing it as a presentation. I felt more reassured by the press conferences given by White House flunkies. Hell, our robot of a mayor, Rudy Giuliani, was more reassuring and real than Bush was.

He said most of the right things, but he's falling down on -- to use a phrase popular during his father's reign -- "the leadership thing." I have yet to get any feeling that someone's in charge.

Thankfully, I don't feel like there's a loss. The country is actually running very well. New York was a phenomenal model of humanity and efficiency today.

By the people, for the people.

10.02pm

"There've been no reports of looting."

Those words, spoken by NYC's police commissioner, are the most heartening words I've heard all day.

10.11pm

In a perfect world a big item of the next state and/or city budget will be funds allocated to rebuild the twin towers. A big victory here will be to restore the NYC skyline.

11.28pm

At a little before 9am, I got an IM from a friend who said, "My father just said an airplane crashed into the World Trade Center. Can you confirm?"

Since then, I've been sitting in the same spot, watching TV -- going among Channel 5 (local Fox affiliate), CNN, Channel 4 (local NBC affiliate), and Channel 7 (local ABC affiliate). Aside from when I took a shower and when we went out to food shop, I've been glued to the internet and the TV.

At a little after 11pm, we got fed up. We had to watch something else.

Never thought I'd be grateful for Golden Girls reruns. I laughed heartily for the first time all day.

Now we're going to try to get some sleep. We're both exhausted.

Good night.

12 September 2001, 11.20am

I actually slept like a rock last night. My subconscious is weird. I've had a few nightmares in my time, but never at a time when you'd expect it. Whenever I've gone through anything icky or traumatic, I've slept fine -- when I've had nightmares, there's never been anything specific to trigger it.

And, while I was physically fine, I was mentally drained by the time Terri and I went to bed last night.

Last night, I made a conscious decision to finish the line edit I had been working on. I wanted to get back into the routine because, goddammit, life does go on and I wasn't going to let the bastards win.

And I finished it. It was a small victory, but a victory nonetheless.

13 September 2001, 1.40pm

I have been in this apartment -- or at least in my immediate neighborhood -- since Sunday night. I spent all day Monday home working, figuring I could go into Manhattan and run errands and take care of business Tuesday. Obviously, that didn't happen, and I didn't go anywhere yesterday either.

I'm going nuts.

I'd probably have gone nuts sooner, but I've had this blessed internet to keep me in contact with the rest of the world, not to mention the telephone. It's been a blessing.

But I need to get out of here. My only significant direct contact has been with Terri and our cats. I need to be among people.

My writers group is having its usual meeting tonight. I'm going to go downtown, take care of some stuff, visit my PO box (haven't checked the mail there since Friday), and then get together with the group and be with people. (We're probably not going to do our usual critique session, but that's less important than just being together.)

14 September 2001, 3.06pm

The bad: Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, two prime candidates for having 100-ton anvils dropped on their heads, blaming the attack Tuesday on the fact that our nation has "abandoned" their particular deity. Never mind the convenient ignorance of the fact that this country was founded, not on Christianity, but on people escaping religious persecution, there's also the, at best, tastelessness and, at worst, out and out offensive and appalling stupidity inherent in blaming this on non-Christians.

Falwell later offered what he probably thought was sufficient apology (nothing from Robertson yet), though he did let loose with this howler: "I therefore believe that that created an environment which possibly has caused God to lift the veil of protection which has allowed no one to attack America on our soil since 1812."

I'm sure the state of Hawaii is thrilled to know that Jerry Falwell doesn't consider them "American soil."

The good: Terri has decided to gather up stuff to donate at the Javits Center. Within a couple of hours of her announcing this on e-mail both at work and to a list we're both on, she got tons of stuff -- medical supplies, dog food for the search pooches, blankets, towels, etc. I'm about to head out to help her haul it across town, along with a bag of first-aid stuff I picked up at the local drugstore.

15 September 2001, 1.30am

Terri and I hauled a whole mess of bandages, first-aid stuff, blankets, bottled water, and dog food from her office on the east side to the Javits Center. Unfortunately, it proved more difficult to unload than we'd thought -- some of the volunteer centers were overloaded. We were able to donate the first-aid stuff and the water, but were sent to Pier 79 (a few blocks up and one block over) for the blankets and dog food. We met up with Laura Anne and did so, only to find that they couldn't take donations because their trucks couldn't go in and out thanks to the presence of Bush in the area. *sigh*

So we went to the Salvation Army place six blocks away and gave them the blankets and dog food. (The latter threw them off-kilter. Nobody'd given them dog food apparently, but hey, those pooches they've been using to find people in the rubble gotta eat, too....)

Then the three of us went uptown to meet with David and Alexandra Honigsberg and a bunch of other people to hold a small prayer service. David's a rabbi, Alex is a priest (and yes, they're married), and the group included Christians, pagans, agnostics, and Jews. They quoted some nifty prayers and Bible passages, several of us shared thoughts and wishes, Kim Kindya sang a Greek song about wisdom, and both the Kaddish and the 23rd Psalm were recited. We shared in communal wine, and Alex offered communion to them that wanted it.

A grass-roots movement to have everyone step outside and light a candle at 7pm started up -- well, somewhere. David and Alex nicely timed it so that we lit candles right around 7.

It was a wonderful thing, and I'm glad we went.

The service was held in a stone bandbox in Ft. Tryon Park, near an open dog run. Afterward, we went to a restaurant in the park, where we had a lovely dinner that couldn't be beat, then retired to David & Alex's apartment for dessert and coffee.

It was a wonderful evening, and something we all needed. That, combined with the donations, made both Terri and I feel good for the first time since Tuesday morning.

1.39am

A couple of quotes:

From Quark in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "The Siege of AR-558" (the seventh-season episode where Nog lost his leg in battle):

"Let me tell you something about hew-mons, Nog. They're a wonderful, friendly people -- as long as their bellies are full and their holosuites are working. But take away their creature comforts... deprive them of food, sleep, sonic showers... put their lives in jeopardy over an extended period of time... and those same friendly, intelligent, wonderful people will become as nasty and violent as the most bloodthirsty Klingon."
From William Blake's America: A Prophecy:

Sound! Sound! my loud war-trumpets, & alarm my Thirteen Angels!
Loud howls the eternal Wolf! the eternal Lion lashes his tail!
America is darken'd; and my punishing Demons terrified,
Crouch howling before their caverns deep, like skins dry'd in the wind.
They cannot smite the wheat, nor quench the fatness of the earth;
They cannot smite with sorrows, nor subdue the plow and spade;
They cannot wall the city, nor moat round the castle of princes;
They cannot bring the stubbed oak to overgrow the hills;
For terrible men stand on the shores, & in their robes I see
Children take shelter from the lightnings: there stands Washington
And Paine and Warren with their foreheads rear'd toward the east.
But clouds obscure my aged sight. A vision from afar!
Sound! Sound! my loud war-trumpets, & alarm my Thirteen Angels!
Ah vision from afar! Ah rebel form that rent the ancient
Heavens! Eternal Viper, self-renew'd, rolling in clouds,
I see thee in thick clouds and darkness on America's shore,
Writhing in pangs of abhorred birth; red flames the crest rebellious
And eyes of death; the harlot womb, oft opened in vain,
Heaves in enormous circles: now the times are return'd upon thee,
Devourer of thy parent, now thy unutterable torment renews.
Sound! Sound! my loud war-trumpets, & alarm my thirteen Angels!
Ah terrible birth! a young one bursting! where is the weeping mouth,
And where the mother's milk? instead, those ever-hissing jaws
And parched lips drop with fresh gore: now roll thou in the clouds;
Thy mother lays her length outstretch'd upon the shore beneath.
Sound! sound! my loud war-trumpets, & alarm my thirteen Angels!
Loud howls the eternal Wolf! the eternal Lion lashes his tail!
[First posted on sff.people.krad at SFF.net on 11-15 September 2001.]

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