Thursday, September 11, 2008
I’ve spent the past few days trying to put together a fitting tribute on this anniversary of September 11th. After much thought I came to the conclusion that I could only write something from my perspective on that day as mine is the only perspective of which I have first hand knowledge. You’ll find this post below the fold.
In the mean time, if you do nothing else today, take a look at this video…and remember.
It was a normal Tuesday morning on September 11, 2001. For me the day began much like most days did – finding me waging the battle of the bulge on a Nordic Track in the garage of my Los Angeles home. At 0530, I began my workout on that dreaded torture device with Blogfather Hugh’s morning radio show murmurings in the background.
Shortly after 0546 I heard Blogfather Hugh deviate from his normal morning routine as he began to make mention of a “tragedy in New York City”. He mentioned something about the World Trade Center having been evidently struck by a plane. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t pay much attention – it was after all well before sunrise and I wasn’t really awake yet. I finished my workout and wandered into the living room and turned on MSNBC a few minutes before 0600.
My verbal reaction to the image on the screen (something having to do with sanctified natural fertilizer) woke the Ravishing Mrs. Cordeiro who then came in to find out what the ruckus was about.
She rounded the hallway corner into the living room just seconds after 0603 – the moment in which United Flight 175, piloted by Marwan al-Shehhi, tilted its wings and impacted between floors 77 and 85 of the World Trade Center’s South Tower.
We sat there and watched in stunned silence for what seemed like an eternity. 34 minutes later, as NBC’s Jim Miklashevski reported live at the Pentagon, his entire desk shook as the building absorbed American Airlines Flight 77 as it the westernmost wall.
In the midst of all this I managed to ready myself to head for my office near LAX. As I was heading for the door at just before 0700, the unthinkable happened. There was a loud rumble, audible even to the cameras in the distance, and the South Tower collapsed upon itself like a folding telescope. Lower Manhattan disappeared in a huge cloud of smoke, dust, and pulverized debris.
America was in a state of shock. New York City was in a state of panic. Unbeknownst to all but a few, two minutes earlier the passengers aboard United Flight 93 had decided to take action. Their own plane had been hijacked by the same band of Islamofacist Murdering Thugs responsible for the other hijacked airplanes.
Thirty-seven passengers and five crew members were herded into the aft section of the Boeing 757-200. The intentions of their hijackers soon became clear. Some passengers had made phone calls to friends and loved ones who informed them about the attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon. They looked at each other. They took a vote. They decided to rush the cockpit and attempt to reclaim the aircraft.
It is said that America’s strength is neither in her military nor in her treasure. America’s strength is in her citizens. Forty-two Americans, most of whom had not known each other prior to that morning, banded together and started to push the drink cart down the aisle to do battle with their captors. The final words anyone heard from these brave souls were those of Todd Beamer:
Are you guys ready? Okay. Let’s roll!Six minutes later, United Flight 93 crashed nose first at 563 miles per hour into a reclaimed coal mine in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. Thus began America’s counterattack in the War on Terror.
Having stopped for breakfast on my way to the office, I saw the North WTC Tower collapse upon itself at 0728. Though nobody knew it, at that moment the attack was over. When all the dust had settled and the smoke had cleared, some 2,996 men, women, and children perished on that Tuesday morning in September.
From the time the American Airlines Flight 11 impacted the North Tower to the time that same tower collapsed down upon itself, a total of 102 minutes elapsed. Those 102 minutes would forever change America. For weeks after that day, Los Angeles radio station KFI ran a haunting one sentence reminder at various intervals during the day. On either side of the voiceover was about five seconds of dead air – just enough to get your attention. Then a voice stated:
It could have just as easily happened here.Los Angeles is a geographical continent and cultural world away from New York and DC. Distance and culture notwithstanding, LA ground to a halt just like most metro areas. Businesses and schools shut down and parents like me were left wondering just exactly how to explain the events of that morning to our children.
My son Corderinho, then a three-year-old bundle of curiosity, was very concerned. You see at that time I traveled often for business and he would accompany the Ravishing Mrs. Cordeiro when she either dropped me off or picked me up at LAX. When I told Corderinho that some “bad men” had crashed the planes into those big building, he looked at me with the quivering lip unique to three-year-olds and asked:
Daddy, are there bad men on your planes?No three-year-old should have to ask that question.
A few years ago while visiting New York City, I made a pilgrimage to Ground Zero. As I stood looking out over the 20 acre hole in the ground, I was approached by a Boston PBS station reporter who put a microphone in my face and asked me how I “felt”. My answer surprised the reporter:
I am still angry.There were no follow up questions and I’m sure the interview got tossed in the corner of the cutting room floor.
I leave you today with a performance by Billy Joel at the Concert for New York City – an event held a few weeks after September 11. He wrote this song some thirty years ago as a science fiction song, but the lyrics are very prescient. The video is interspersed with footage from 9/11 – some of which is difficult to watch.
Count me among the handful.