Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years Later

Today marks the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and United Flight 93 crashing in a field in Shanksville, PA after passengers fought with hijackers to retake the aircraft.

It seems difficult to believe that some kids in grade school at the time of the attacks are now old enough to go to college or join the military

The terrorist assault on the United States were preceded by an attack on Afghan Mujaheddin leader Ahmad Shah Massoud, viewed by the Taliban and their Al Qaeda allies as the last cohesive group standing in the way of the Taliban taking complete control of Afghanistan. Two days prior to th 9/11 attacks, the veteran Afghan fighter was killed by two suicide bombers posing as a camera crew preparing to interview him.

Massoud's death in a nation wracked by more than two decades of conflict half a world away made little, if any, news in the USA at the time. However, the Taliban's ascendancy to power and their autocratic, fundamentalist rule was very disconcerting to anybody that was even paying the slightest bit of attention.

I distinctly remember a conversation with my father about a week before the 9/11 attacks. My grandfather was from the generation that could remember exactly where they were when they heard that Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese. My father was from the generation that could remember what they were doing when they got the news when President Kennedy was shot. So what did that leave my generation? The space shuttle Challenger disaster? The Oklahoma City bombing?

When I went to bed the night of September 10th, 2001, my biggest concern was that I had wasted a few hours watching a rather mediocre Monday Night Football game between the Denver Broncos and New York Giants. As I mentioned last year, that all changed in the bloodiest possible manner in less than 12 hours.

And lest we forget, this is how news of the atrocity was met among the parts of the Arab Street.

Although I was several states away and literally slept through the attacks, I was in New York City several weeks after the attacks. From a distance, the Manhattan skyline looked fractured and vacant without the two iconic towers there. I felt compelled to go and see what I could of Ground Zero for myself.

Washington DC Area Firefighters try to get inferno at Pentagon under control after Flight 77 struck the building.
It seemed pretty nondescript up close- acres of debris with floodlights glaring down on the recovery site for volunteers and workers as the days got shorter. The site was surrounded by some barriers and chain link fences, many of them adorned with faded 'MISSING' posters, wilted bouquets and burned out votive candles. One of the fliers struck me as especially poignant- it was from a bagpipe player who was offering his services for free for funerals of those killed in the attacks. Even if only a fraction of the victims loved ones took him up on his offer, the piper who put up the flier would've been quite busy.

On the way to and from the barrier around Ground Zero, one could see smoke lazily drifting up from grates along the sidewalk a few blocks away. Failing to appreciate the enormity of the original WTC site, it eventually dawned on me that these were smaller, isolated fires that had been smoldering underground since the twin towers collapsed. The sickly-sweet smell from the vents was mixed in with the smell of peanuts from a streetside vendor at one corner.

9/11 Tributes Past- Tribute in Light

Even across town from Ground Zero, the walkway into Grand Central station had a massive bulletin board with 'MISSING' posters- this time they were protected from the elements. The City that Never Sleeps had managed to brush itself off and resume a semblance of normalcy, but there was an almost palpable undercurrent of sorrow and uncertainty to go with the stoicism.

[Please note that I'm not trying to make this all about "me me me", just attempting to relate my firsthand but extremely limited experiences pertaining to 9/11 -NANESB!]

I mentioned this last year, but it bears repeating for as long as my fingers can find the keyboard. It's also important to avoid sugar-coating the events of September 11, 2001, such as many in the entertainment industry referring to it in neutral terms like 'tragedy' or 'disaster'. No doubt the end result is tragic, but the Towers didn't collapse in a stiff breeze. The Pentagon didn't get that chunk torn out of due to a ruptured water main. Flight 93 didn't crash in a field in Western Pennsylvania because a bird got sucked into the engine. These were calculated, meticulously planned acts of mass murder by muslim extremists- to gloss over that or say otherwise is a piss-poor attempt at re-writing history.

This is what so many mean when they say 'NEVER FORGET'.

On the plus side, this will be the first anniversary of September 11th without Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden (may he rot in hell), who was killed in a Navy SEAL raid on his Pakistani compound in May.

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