In Memoriam: The World Trade Center Twin Towers
In Memoriam: The World Trade Center Twin Towers
A Manhattanite by birth, this is how I remember the World Trade Center Twin Towers: magical, massive beyond belief,
and comforting in some other-worldly sort of way. When I gave my
a local’s tour of Manhattan we spent an afternoon around the towers and Battery Park. Alas, we weren’t allowed to visit the Windows on the World restaurant because we weren’t dressed formally enough.
On Tuesday 11 September 2001 the World Trade Center Twin Towers were destroyed by the heat from the fire started by the deliberate suicide bombing by commercial passenger jet airplanes. PENTTBOM, Pentagon Twin Towers Bombing, was the most costly attack on U. S. soil, ever.
As I write this there’s still no clear accounting of persons missing and presumed dead in the remains of the buildings. New York Mayor Rudolph ‘Rudy’ Guilani noted somewhere in the vicinity of 4700 persons, including passengers of the jets and firefighters and police responding. One of the dead was a member of the clergy, killed by debris while giving last rites to a fellow firefighter. The stories are still pouring out of lower Manhattan, currently closed from 14th Street, southward.
While many of the stories are heartbreaking, or eerie (the man who escaped but whose sister and niece were on the plane which hit the tower in which he was working), or heroic (the pregant woman who was carried down 77 floors to safety), what bothers me the most are the tales of young children, trying to understand why a parent isn’t coming home.
There’s a lot more to be written, and I’m sure others will write it. As one from the magic isle, whose heart is always somewhere South of Houston Street (SoHo to the rest of y’all), I just wanted to take a moment to remember the Twin Towers as they were, and always will be, in my memory.
Here’s how I reported it, day by day:
Tuesday 11 September 2001, the Twin Towers topple
Friends call to see whether we’ve heard the news. We haven’t, and because we don’t have a television at home we listen to the radio. They describe circumstances but no specifics, and we can’t figure out what’s smoking, and where people are hurt. Until I get my computer online. Then I see the beloved towers of the World Trade Center, in my hometown of Manhattan, under attack. Rose and I visited the towers (but weren’t dressed formally enough to dine at the Windows on the World restaurant) the list time we were in New York…
Then Oma calls. Where are ? I don’t know; Fel doesn’t email her itinerary around when she travels. Since I haven’t heard anything about incoming international flights I tell her not to worry, that they’re probably cooling their jets at Gander, Canada, while security checks out the plane. (When Pan Am 103 was destroyed over Lockerbie, Scottland,
and I were held up on the tarmac at Stockholm for hours until the bomb-sniffing dogs had done their thing. It was a very strange birthday morning, standing on the ladder pushed up against the plane, looking at the sunrise over the trees.)
I can’t get through to Dad, who lives twenty miles from the towers, but I can’t believe he’d be out that early in the morning. Unless he stayed over at Rockefeller University, a frequent haunt. And there are others in Manhattan, such as an Assistant District Attorney…
and Adam (and their baby-to-be) are just fine. They were en route from
(MAD) to New York, but were diverted to Amsterdam’s Schipol.
[Update] Dad is fine. He was at home, but phone service is intermittent and network connectivity via dial-up is non-existent. He’s got no news about friends at Rockefeller, nor about a family friend who works on the top floor of the north tower.
[Update] Family friend is just fine. Rush-hour traffic, plus congestion from the first strike, delayed him. When the news was heard he just turned around and went back home to his family.
What I don’t understand is the rush to judge this as a state-sponsored event and a grand failure of airport security. Even my father, a pilot of small planes, thinks so. It strikes me as just the opposite: four small groups of hijackers gain access to a jet, perhaps by simply buying tickets, brings along tiny box-cutters and knives, rather than guns or grenades, and has the basic knowledge to fly an already-airborne commercial jet. Every nation has an airline, and it’s not difficult to buy training manuals and videos about flying jets. (Heck, the ever-ongoing airplane documentaries on the Discovery channel probably give one a good base from which to start.) My prediction: it’ll be a small group, fanatic, probably religiously motivated. The Taliban’s disclaimer notwithstanding, if I had to choose I’d put my money is on Osama bin Laden rather than the government of Iraq.
What I really don’t understand are those folks who take out their frustrations on Arab-Americans.
Perhaps the dumbest thing I heard today was a complaint from a very senior person of one of my clients who was upset because email she sent to Rockefeller University was delayed in transit. I had to explain that there was a bit of an infrastructure issue in lower Manhattan, and that without electrical power, network or phone connectivity, and perhaps structural integrity to the surrounding buildings, there might be some obstacles to accessing their mail server.
Black Rock City Ranger Jersey1, a firefighter with whom I had the pleasure to work at , sends these missives from the fire-rescue vantage point near ground zero:
Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001 19:43:30 EDT
I have just returned from my tour of duty at Central NJ staging area for Fire Rescue services just across from Staten Island NYC. I will return to duty at 2300 tonight as this will be the more telling operational period. We have spent the day structuring relief crews for FDNY 8th Division on the Borough of Staten Island. My conversations with their Battalion Chiefs were choked with tears on both end. They have over 200 missing.
We said a tearful good bye to 20 NJ Fire units Engines, Ladders and Rescues as they went for deployment at the scene and in Brooklyn with a compliment of 100 men with no set return day. We sent 40 ambulances to the statue of liberty park mostly staffed by 18 year old cheeky volunteers, what they will encounter will rob them of their youth. Delivering babies in suburban NJ today, working in war zone tomorrow. They have also opened a hospital that was closed last year and have commandeered the piers several blocks from it for ferrying wounded to on the Bay. More task forces will leave tonight.
All that is left of the skyline we love to hate in NJ is billowing smoke
as big as any California Wildfire dotted with fighter jets on the prowl. I have read some posts today all good thoughts. Contrast these thoughts with the sights of tractor trailers of medical supplies and refrigerated trailers for the dead that were staging in my area today then ask about restraint and innocence. The good news is they picked the right city. This is a city that is as tough as nails and they are showing it. It is an Honor to serve them. God Bless America!
Please pray for us and the Firefighters/Medics that are mobilizing in your area, show them love.
Then, of course, we ought not let misplaced stupidity go forgotten: on perhaps the most important day for Americans to have a place of community, somewhere to share feelings and strength, Starbucks closes all its venues across the nation. What?!? There were folks milling around Noe Valley, looking for somewhere familiar. Excellent job of serving the community, Starbucks.
Wednesday 12 September 2001
It’s 03:44. My reverie, a geekly trance, is obliterated by the sounds of the first airplane I’ve heard since yesterday morning. It’s a rude, ominuous sound, filled with connotations newly attached. This from a lifelong lover of jet travel, starting from youthful visits to the wonderful buildings at Kennedy Airport (JFK), near New York.
I’m reading this morning’s San Francisco Chronicle and I note that New York Mayor Rudy Giulani’s Emergency Operations Center had recently been relocated to the 23rd floor of 7 World Trade Center. What?
I’ve done quite a bit with emergency services, and I know you don’t locate an EOC 23 floors up. You want staff hiking up and down those stairwells when power goes out? This is what passes for a plan? Feggetaboudit.
(My bona fides for this comment: I did wilderness search-and-rescue (SAR) with the
(BAMRU) and urban SAR as the coördinator of the
(HAERT), was an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT),both a PADI Rescue Diver and Divemaster, and a radio ham.)
Thank goodness for more from Jersey1:
Date: Wed, 12 Sep 2001 18:23:52 EDT
The last night and day have been eerily quiet on this side of the river. NYC has teletyped that they need no more help for the time being. This is likely to change as the adrenaline wears off. The units we sent yesterday are returning today most from Brooklyn where they went to empty firehouses whose companies and equipment were wiped out when the towers collapsed. They ran all night on false alarms. They said it was as if the city was not having any fires out of respect, a truce of sorts.
The Red Hook station in Brooklyn was out in full force as the second alarm to the WTC. It hit me as I recalled the a pan of news footage where a crushed FDNY engine lights still flashing where someone had cleared way the dust from the “Red Hook”
lettering on the cab. Still on duty, defiant, despite it’s fate. This is where Kenny, a retired FDNY Firefighter and NJ Volunteer at 64 years old, called in from to report his unit’s location and status. His unit, a refurbished FDNY Tower Ladder with a top speed of 47 mph, lead the NJ column into NYC. He ended the phone call by saying thanks “Brother” instead of “Kiddo” as he had called me when he was my instructor mentor.
All five of FDNY’s élite Rescue Companies, the guys who swoop down from parapets on ropes to pick off victims and the like, were understood to be going through shift changes at the item of alarm. They heard the magnitude of the alarm and simply all said “we all go.” They are presumed gone as well. These were my heroes as were some of the Port Authority Cops who I trained with at our Academy. They are missing as well. We listened as FDNY Citywide frequency broadcast the last alarms for their Department Chief, a traditionally posthumous salute.
In the morning RV command posts loaded with cops pulled up, they were returning from security details when I noticed it. They looked like burners from foot to knee covered in a chalky white dust. I thought how recently that had been a sign that that person had been to a wonderful place. My mind flashed back to the Pershing Deputies and I looked for their ATVs for a moment. They began to unload shaking their heads somberly some silent others gushing about how F—-ing bad it is. They said they saw few bodies mostly just wreckage but as they left started seeing bodies being brought out from a distance.
The night sky was eerie as well. The marker lights and whirl of helicopters could be linked in a constant chain south towards Philadelphia and Washington. Even more strange was the sound of jets that you couldn’t see. It sucks being in the rear with the gear when we all want to put our hands on it. If we can’t strangle the SOBs that did it, at least we can vent by denying them another life. I am [now] home again and will be going in to serve my normal FD shifts tonight. NYC is madder than hell and opening bridges, trains, businesses and the Stock Market tomorrow to spite them. “Fuck-em, is that all they got?” can be heard on all sides of the Hudson as if it were a Yankee game gone bad-TODAY WE LIVE!
Thank you all for your notes and prayers. I am well out of harm’s way with my assignments and wish it were otherwise, frankly. Thank you for listening to my posts as you all provide an outlet for my emotions often bridled by the duty of the day and those around me entitled to grieve much more than I.
Heavily armed police and FBI agents swarmed the Westin Hotel in the Copley Square area of Boston today, says CNN.
Wow, the Copley. That brings back memories. In the five years I spent in Boston I visited the Copley hundreds of times. My mailbox was located nearby, and the restaurants were worth throught the glass bridge. Logan Airport: oh, the dozens of times I took the T from there to BU; all the flights between there and Newark on People’s Express airlines.
Thursday 13 September 2001
Finally, at 04:30 this morning, comes news from Adam and :
Hi everyone, just wanted to let everyone know where doing fine. Its been a little scary,we where 2 1/2 hours over the alantic when the pilot told us we had a fuel leak, and needed to head back to Amsterdam. we made it back to Amsterdam when the pilot told us about the terrorist attacks, the fuel leak story was just to discourage any hijacking on our flight, but now were stuck at a friends house in Amsterdam, we have reservations for a flight Thursday, we’ll see if it will get off,
love to all
I call them in Amsterdam just to hear their voices. It’s great. They were scheduled to be on the Dulles – San Francisco flight, five hours after the one which was hijacked. There but for the grace of God go they.
I call all of Adam’s music students who meet with him on Thursday, Friday, and Monday. I explain the circumstances, and ask them to get in touch with Adam next week, should he be delayed (again) in returning.
really wants to get back. I suggest that they spend the weekend with Oma and take the Monday flight given to them by the airline. She’s heard that the airports are “open on a limited basis”, but that’s not really operative 🙂 Only a handful of planes made it into SFO today, and the three New York area airports – JFK, Newark (EWR), and La Guardia (LGA) – where closed again today due to the arrest of several folks who were scheduled to pilot a plane on Black Tuesday but were thwarted when their flight was cancelled after the first attacks.
I’m concerned that they’ll leave Amsterdam, where they’ve come to a somewhat comfortable transient state, and wind up stranded in Heathrow or Dulles, their transit points on their new itinerary back to San Francisco. I get email late in the evening (early their Friday morning) saying:
Date: Fri, 14 Sep 2001 01:26:28 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Return flight
Hi everyone, well we have 2 flights booked , sunday
mornning ,leave on Singpore air from Amsterdam at 8:10am to newark to SF, be back in SF by 6:30pm sunday eve.
and we still have our monday flight too.
hope to be home ASAP
love Adam &
Friday 14 September 2001
Rose keeps mentioning that the city seems so quiet. She’s right. I’m not sure whether everyone is going to work, but they’re certainly not doing much afterwards. Restaurants are rather empty; stores quiet.
And of course the downtown financial district is at a standstill. Here’s the ticker outside my old offices at . It reads 0.00 because the market has been closed since Tuesday. I haven’t checked, but I’m guessing the brokerages have just had their employees take the week off. If they didn’t, they certainly should have.
I’m a regular blood donor. If my
doesn’t remind me the Blood Center of the Pacific does, with a friendly phone call. I read in today’s paper that there’s a worry of a deficit, when the blood being donated now goes bad in 35 days; one is allowed to give every 56 days. So I’m scheduling an appointment for a month after the attacks. Help and , all in one.
Just when we were absolutely sure that dangerous religious fundementalists were all overseas, plotting to weaken and destroy the remarkable melting pot which we call the American way of life, we’re rudely reminded that stupid, thoughtless, and intolerant idiots are in our midst. The following is an exchange between the Reverands Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson during the religious television program The 700 Club:
Falwell: I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the
feminists, and the gays and lesbians who are actively trying to make that
an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way
them who have tried to secularize America
I point the finger in their
face and say, “You helped this happen”.
Robertson: Well, I totally concur, and the problem is we
have adopted their agenda at the highest levels of our government.
The best response I’ve found, so far, is by National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Lorri L. Jean, who said:
The terrible tragedy that has befallen our nation, and indeed the entire
global community, is the sad byproduct of fanaticism. It has its roots in
the same fanaticism that enables people like Jerry Falwell to preach hate
against those who do not think, live, or love in the exact same way he
Black Rock City Ranger Tim Bailey reports his experience:
Thank you. I have been through hell here in NYC and it persists. I stared in shock up at the burning of WTC 1 and was set back by the explosion of plane 2 as it ripped through the building.
I watched bodies fall from heights unimaginable. And the unexpected horror of the collapsing of the worlds 4th and 5th largest building in the world put me into shock and sent me running to avoid the falling debris. I am starting to crawl out of the shock and still struggling to understand it. Through it all I am strengthened by the people and experience of [Burning Man] a stark contrast to the dust that has covered my body from the remains of the WTC. I look forward to my return home to [Black Rock City] and the reminder of what is good in this world.
Something else from the Ranger mailing list:
Here’s an interesting tidbit. Seems it is constitutional to declare war on terrorists and not name a specific country. Article 1, section 8 of the Constitution empowers congress to “define and punish Piracies, Felonies committed on the High Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations”.
This was last used in 1801 by Thomas Jefferson when he sent the Navy to the Mediterranean to deal with the Barbary Pirates.
I’m outside at 13:40, strolling along the marshes at the north end of SFO. All of a sudden the airport comes alive. A dozen inbound and outbound flights go. Several helicopters fly around the area, and the first boat I’ve seen on the bay in days runs parallel to the airport shore. Then all is quiet again.
It’s getting harder and harder to separate fact from fiction, especially when the newspaper headlines are stranger than a Tom Clancy novel. But this one really has me scratching my head:
SEATTLE (Reuters) – Software giant Microsoft Corp. said Friday it would remove the World Trade Center from the New York landscape in its upcoming Flight Simulator game after the twin towers were destroyed this week.
“We did decide this morning, after some careful consideration, that we want to do the appropriate thing, the right thing, so we decided to remove the towers,” company spokesman Matt Pilla said.
“Obviously everyone’s hearts are in this here, too. We don’t want to have any any imagery in there that would upset anyone,” Pilla said.
Huh? Should we remove Presidents Garfield, Lincoln, and Kennedy because they were assassinated and we don’t want to upset students of history? Not discuss WWI and WWII because it might make someone uncomfortable?
Leave the damn towers in, to remember what we proudly built, and will build again.
Friday 14 September 2001
At 19:00 today Rose, Isaac, Lila, Pam, and I joined the candle-lighting ceremony at
and 18th, at the corner memorial display set up for the victims in general and local boy Mark Bingham. It was very quiet and very crowded, with folks flowing over the curbs onto the street. It was extremely difficult keeping candles burning in the cold gusts of wind, even with a cup around the flame, but one person figured it out: he came prepared with a tiki torch.
Devin McKinney, whom you might remember from our trip to
last year, shares with us how the PENTTBOM (Pentagon Twin Towers Bombing, our government’s acronym for this event and subsequent investigation) appears from the other side of the planet.
Date: Fri, 14 Sep 2001 23:40:08 +0200
Subject: The View from Rome
Hello all –
I’ve been living in Rome for the past year+, and I thought you might be interested on the European/expatriate take on this whole thing is. It’s a few shades of gray different from what I’ve heard from the American commentators and from my friends who I’ve spoken with in the states.
First, a personal experience. Today I had an appointment for further work on a root canal (ugh!) at noon. I showed up, and they sent me into the waiting room. A couple minutes later, all the lights went out in the building, and I thought, what the hell (or “che cazzo” in Italian)? Then they came out and got me a few minutes later – my dentist told me that they had been participating in a ceremony of five minutes of silence in all of Europe today.
The people here have been living with a vivid terrorist threat for many years, and have had to accept the fact that with soft border crossing enforcement, people can get to just about anywhere in Europe pretty easily. I’ve spoken with Israeli, Belgians, Italians, English, Welsh, Serbians about this whole thing in the past few days.
Comments I’ve heard –
1. Overall shocked and dismayed at a profound level. Many have expressed the opinion that an attack on the US is really an attack on them as well – I’m actually somewhat surprised because in the past year, especially with the election debacle, I’ve heard a lot of people trying to distance themselves and Europe from American attitudes or policies. This seems to have cut through a lot of that, I think the magnitude of it may have made America seem more real to them, more human somehow, rather than a faceless influence that impacts all their lives in what they largely perceive as a negative way.
2. If America strikes back at Terrorism, there will likely be reprisals from terrorists that weren’t involved in the WTC but still are under fire from the American effort. Those reprisals are far more likely to hit Europe, because it’s much easier to get at.
3. Italians tend to support the U.S. obliterating Afghanistan from the face of the earth. They are a country of strong opinions without much follow-through, from my experience here, and probably will not be spending much of their money or using much of their military in any such effort, though. I heard a joke here – what are the three shortest books in the world? 1) British cookbook, 2) Book of French Étiquette, and 3) Famous Italian War Heroes.
4. The U.S. was involved in this, it was a CIA plot to gain strength for Bush’s programs. Yikes. I for one can’t even imagine a politician in America deciding that they would do something like this for political gain. We’re not talking impeachment, we’re talking lynch mobs.
5. Skepticism across the board (even outright laughter) when the commentators talk about it being an “unprovoked attack”. They definitely have a view that American foreign policy is not designed with a consistent sense of America wanting to belong to the international community. A milder view of this is that in spite of good intentions some unfortunate things have come to pass in the world directly as a result of American actions, possibly because of geography and history leaving America fairly isolated.
6. Generally a sense that maybe the U.S. will finally get with the program in dealing with this kind of thing.
7. Calling this a “War” makes no sense – they’ve lived with this faceless enemy in their back yard for years, and if the U.S. portrays a strong anti-terrorist effort as a war, then they’ve been at war themselves for years. I think that in varying degrees the countries of Europe have come to terms with the reality of being close to the terrorist “theater”. They would welcome relief from it, and would love to see a country like the US with the resources at the US’ disposal come on the scene. They also are a little nervous at what the fallout of US involvement will be as well, because they live closer to the likely scenes of conflict.
My own opinion? Well, at this point I feel safer in Rome than I would in San Francisco, but absent more immediate terrorist acts in the U.S., I think that will shift – Rome is a highly visible spot as the home of the Vatican and a ton of Americans, as well as a lot of treasures such as the Colisseum and St. Peters that terrorists might target if they decide to raise the stakes.
I don’t think we (America) can ignore this, I also think that this is a bigger and more complex problem than most people in America realize. And looking from here, this problem has been in existence for years; if this is what it takes to wake up the United States, then maybe some good will come from this terrible tragedy.
Ciao a tutti!
Speaking of reactions from overseas, here are some pictures making their rounds of the ‘net this evening.
As usual, His Holiness Pope John Paul II, whom you may also remember from our visit to , seems to have been best able to sum up the appropriate human reaction.
The following photos are of displays left outside U. S. embassies or consulates, I’m told.
Tel Aviv, Israel
Palestinians, East Jerusalem, Israel
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague, Czech Republic
Saturday 15 September 2001
There’s been a picture entitled ‘WTC – The New Design’ circulating around the ‘net. At left you see a tiny version of it. It shows the twin towers rebuilt as five fingers, with the middle finger raised (in an obscene gesture presumably aimed at those who attacked and brought down the originals). [I cleaned up the original, which was obviously hastily done without much knowledge of digital editing. If you want a copy, please let me know.]
From the Philadelphia Daily News:
D i d
S a t a n
r e a r
h i s
u g l y
f a c e ?
T h e
f a c e
S a t a n
s e e m s
e e r i l y
a p p e a r
t h e
s m o k e
b i l l o w i n g
f r o m
t h e
b l a s t e d
W o r l d
T r a d e
C e n t e r
b u i l d i n g s
N e w
Yo r k .
l e a s t ,
t h a t ‘ s
w h a t
m a n y
h o r r i f i e d
p e o p l e
a r o u n d
t h e
c o u n t r y
h a v e
s e e n
t h i s
A s s o c i a t e d
P r e s s
p h o t o
b e l o w .
A s s o c i a t e d
P r e s s
w a s
c o n t a c t e d
a n d
s a i d
t h e
p h o t o
h a s
n o t
b e e n
t o u c h e d
a n y
w a y .
T h e
h i g h e r – c o n t r a s t
v e r s i o n
( r i g h t )
t h e
p h o t o
s e e m s
b r i n g
i n t o
f o c u s
t h e
f a c e
t h e
E v i l
O n e ,
c o m p l e t e
w i t h
b e a r d
a n d
h o r n s
a n d
m a l i g n a n t
e x p r e s s i o n ,
s y m b o l i z i n g
m a n y
t h e
h i d e o u s
n a t u r e
t h e
d e e d
t h a t
w r e a k e d
h o r r o r
a n d
t e r r or
u p o n
u n s u s p e c t i n g
c i t y .
W h a t
y o u
s e e
t h e
p h o t o ?
Sunday 16 September 2001
and Adam called
at 04:30 (!) this morning from Amsterdam to let him know that they’ve gotten on a plane a whole day earlier than planned (a week ago, just after landing, the airline had given them a ticket for tomorrow). Amsterdam to Dulles to San Francisco. Would we please pick them up this evening?
Well, of course we didn’t get the message until the middle of the day, but we reärranged our evening, picked up their big ol’ station wagon, and headed out to the airport. No traffic to speak of, and plenty of parking 🙂 Isaac wanted to go see the planes, but damn near everything was cordoned off, protected by lots of police officers and yellow crime tape. We couldn’t get anywhere near a window to see the planes. But Isaac took it in stride, as long as he was able to see what was going on. And of course, even with only (literally) a handful of planes flying across the United States, and with lots of time added to their arrival time estimate (so the airlines can claim a higher “on-time” percentage), they were still late! Argh!
Finally we got to hug Adam and , round up all the luggage, bundle everyone into the wagon, and head on home, making a few phone calls to relatives along the way. It’s good to have them home.
I think that Tom Tomorrow said it best of all:
Have you found errors nontrivial or marginal, factual, analytical and illogical, arithmetical, temporal, or even typographical? Please let me know; drop me . Thanks!
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