The blogosphere seems to be saturated with stories retelling what people were doing when they first heard (or felt) the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center five years ago, on September 11, 2001. Here’s my contribution to the meme.
I was a blogger back then, so you can start by reading what I wrote that morning, but it’s not much about my actual experience.
I was working in northern New Jersey at the time. I was on my way to work, on the New Jersey Turnpike. A CD was playing in my car, so I wasn’t listening to the radio. After 9:00 am, I was completely unaware of anything going on. As I approached exit 18W at the top of the toll portion of the Turnpike, I began to see a number of cars pulled over on the breakdown lane (the “shoulder”), with their drivers pacing around, talking on cell phones. This struck me as somewhat odd.
After the tolls, I came to one of those electronic variable message displays, which usually tell you traffic situations. The sign alerted me that the George Washington Bridge was closed. Now I was concerned, but I didn’t think that the issue was that major yet.
I turned off my music and the radio defaulted to my usual station at the time, Q104.3, New York’s only classic rock station. Rather than the usual Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, or Bruce Springsteen, I heard the morning DJ taking calls, which was very odd.
Finally, the DJ recapped the situation for those “just tuning in.” I was in disbelief.
A few minutes later, I got to my office in Bergenfield and those who were there already were watching the news, trying to take everything in. It was then that we saw, live, the second airplane hitting the second tower. We continued watching as both towers collapsed.
My father worked in New York City, but at the time, I did not know where his office was. I later found out that his office was basically across the street from the World Trade Center. I was unable to get in touch with him for hours, and I was very concerned.
I finally did hear from him around 2:30 pm. When the first plane hit, he thought the noise was the regular construction on his building, but after a few minutes he was told to evacuate the building. As he made his way outside, the carnage was scary. Obvisouly, people had already been jumping from the burning towers and body parts were everywhere.
He managed to catch the last ferry to Jersey City and eventually made his way to his girlfriend’s house. I made my way home from work, taking an alternate route as the New Jersey Turnpike was closed.
For days I saw the plume of smoke from the New York skyline as I drove to the office, and a cloud of dust covered the bottom of Manhattan longer. (Meanwhile, former New Jersey governor and unlikely EPA administrator Christie Whitman declared the air around “Ground Zero” was safe.)
I quickly grew tired of all the September 11 media coverage, the sappy songs played on the radio, and the unspoken competitions to see who could attach more flags to their cars. The media ended up being a willing accomplice in the White House administration’s strategy for using the event as a nationalistic rallying point and as an excuse to call those who disagreed with the administration “unpatriotic.”
The politics of September 11 destroyed any positive humanistic lessons that terrorism in New York City could have taught us. I am deeply saddened by the loss of life, but a war against an idea (terrorism, drugs, etc.) is a pointless endeavor other than an appealing catchphrase; ideas don’t fight back and the war can never be declared “won.”
I’m also tired of the cliches that arose due to the terrorist attacks in New York. We don’t “live in a different world” now, a world in which we should be willing to give up the freedoms those in this country have been given over time. There has always been, and there always will be, terrorism.
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