Six years ago today I was at home in my house in Westchester, drinking my coffee and reading FreeRepublic. My startup company had run out of money, and I had been interviewing for jobs, but I had nothing set for that day. The Friday before, I had interviewed at an investment bank in the north tower of the World Trade Center for a senior job in their research department. The interview went well, and I was expecting a callback. I still have the security ID they would generate for you in the lobby with your photo printed on it. It clearly says, World Trade Center, September 7th, 2001.
When the first plane hit, everyone seemed to think it was an accident. I guess I expected that some little private plane had gotten out of control somehow. I got up from my desk, and went into the living room, where my mother in law had turned on CNN. I knew right away that no small plane could have made a gash in the building that size. When my wife came down the stairs holding our 16 month old daughter, she could only stand there with her mouth open. But when the second plane hit on live TV, she forgot herself for a minute and said “Holy S**T”. Our daughter immediately repeated her words, so the first and only time I’ve ever heard my daughter swear, was on September 11th, 2001, just after the second plane hit.
We stood there transfixed while the bodies started to fall from the broken windows. And by the time the towers crumbled into dust, we all knew it was Muslims. CNN had shown footage of the pentagon, and the Palestinian women ululating in delight over the death of so many innocent Americans. More than anything else, that’s the image that sticks with me today. Maybe I’ve blocked out the rest of the horror, but that image of the women dancing and celebrating because of the death of innocent people really got to me.
Everyone I had interviewed with just 4 days before was killed. A man I had known since high school was among them. He left a wife and three daughters, all under 10. He didn’t do anything to anyone that day except go to work. He didn’t sign up for the Jihad, he probably didn’t even know what it meant. He was just a guy trying to pay his mortgage, keep his wife from being angry with him, and still manage to squeeze in a round or two of golf every now and then. Now he was dead, and this woman on my TV was deliriously happy because of it. It takes an awful lot to fix a society that is as screwed up as all that.
As soon as they lifted the travel restriction and opened the city again I went straight downtown. I had worked near the Stock exchange for most of my career and used to commute through the trade center from Hoboken. In fact, it was then that I missed the first trade center bombing by ½ an hour. We've all heard what it was like after, with the photos on the church wall, and the wreckage everywhere. The dust in front of my old office at 1 Chase plaza was still six inches deep, and that was over 1/2 mile away. And that's the only thing I've never heard described well... the unbelievable scope of the destruction.
For those that had never been in or near them it’s difficult to describe what an overpowering sight the towers were. They weren’t like buildings they were like a mountain. Their base covered up acres, 50,000 people worked in them, and a million commuted through them every day. You could go indoors at the Church street subway, and not go outside again until you hit the Hudson River, nearly 3/4 a mile away. But when they were torn away, it was as if someone had come along and moved the Rocky Mountains east into the middle of Kansas leaving a big empty flat spot in Colorado where they used to be. It felt that big. and it still does.
The most chilling part for me now is that the PATH station which used to be in the sub-sub-basement of the worlds largest building has been totally rebuilt, exactly where it was. Only now, it has sunshine on it. As I said I had commuted through it for years, and to see it so complete but without the massive structure which used to be above it, always leaves me choked up. In a way, I think leaving the hole as it is would be the perfect monument. A reminder that no matter what we build, some 15th century psychotic can use our own civilization to tear it down, unless we stop them. The tools of their withered and dusty civilization could never have destroyed those building. They had to use our planes to do it.
I still maintain that the Arab world will eventually reform itself, but it will take a long time and probably require an enormous shock. And when the Iranians test their first nuclear weapon, they may very well get it. But in the end I think the western world has already won, it’s just a matter of how much pain we endure and how much we must inflict before it all comes to pass. Until then though, it’s that image of delirious joy because of innocent death that sticks with me. Because of the ideals of the western world we don’t enjoy killing, but sometimes view it as necessary. And until the same can be said of the Arab world, things don’t look like they’ll change to me.
In the meantime: