8 Years Ago

I have told my story before of finding myself a visitor to Manhattan on 9/11.  I watched much of the disaster unfold from the roof of the W Hotel, and spent a weird Omega Man-like evening as some of the only people walking around a deserted Manhattan (police were letting people leave the island but not come back).  And the surreal drive around a still car-free Manhattan the next morning, as police would admit there was one way off the island, but out of some bizarre notion of security would not tell us where it was, so we drove much of the perimeter until we got out via the GW at the north end.

We were lucky in about  a zillion ways that day.  Our kids were being watched back in Seattle by someone with the flexibility to watch them for the four more nights it took us to get home.  We randomly bumped into a friend who had the last rent car in Manhattan and was headed west.  And, of course, my meeting was in midtown, unlike several friends of mine who had meetings in the WTC and never got out.

I still think the two best works of journalism on 9/11 I have seen are National Geographic's "Inside 9/11," which is airing off and on this week, and the Onion's 9/11 issue.  I know the latter choice seems weird, but the Onion was easily the first place anywhere to try to make people laugh when everyone was being so serious.  They did a great job of being funny without being disrespectful.  A bunch of the articles are still funny, and this one seems dead on in retrospect:

"America's enemy, be it Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, the Taliban, a multinational coalition of terrorist organizations, any of a rogue's gallery of violent Islamic fringe groups, or an entirely different, non-Islamic aggressor we've never even heard of... be warned," Bush said during an 11-minute speech from the Oval Office. "The United States is preparing to strike, directly and decisively, against you, whoever you are, just as soon as we have a rough idea of your identity and a reasonably decent estimate as to where your base is located."...

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said the war against terrorism will be different from any previous model of modern warfare.

"We were lucky enough at Pearl Harbor to be the victim of a craven sneak attack from an aggressor with the decency to attack military targets, use their own damn planes, and clearly mark those planes with their national insignia so that we knew who they were," Rumsfeld said. "Since the 21st-century breed of coward is not affording us any such luxury, we are forced to fritter away time searching hither and yon for him in the manner of a global easter-egg hunt."

Standing in opposition to Bush and Congress is a small but growing anti-war movement. During the president's speech Tuesday, two dozen demonstrators gathered outside the White House, chanting and waving placards bearing such slogans as "U.S. Out Of Somewhere" and "No Blood For Whatever These Murderous Animals Hope To Acquire."

Here is some footage of the disaster that was not released until years after the event.


  1. T:

    The saddest part is that 8 years later, the terrorists have won. Even one administration later, we're discussing how much torture under which circumstances is justified, how long citizens should be able to be held preventatively and security from vague outside threats blindsided us to the real economic issues that ended up wrecking more than one American Dream. Not to mention that the reaction of attacking a country that had nothing to do in response to the attacks based on blatant lies has alienated our allies and fortified the beliefs of our enemies, solidly determining our place on the moral low ground.

  2. Captain Obviousness:

    "Here is some footage of the disaster that was not released until years after the event."

    Is there supposed to be a link or embedded video?

    The Onion article on American life now a bad Jerry Bruckheimer movie is a crackup, particularly the picture captions that say "an actual scene from real life" and "not a scene in a movie". That is exactly how it felt that day, like it couldn't be real and had to be a dream or a movie or something.

  3. A Friend:

    T: The economic problems we have today are arguably a result of 9/11. The Fed lowered interest rates afterwards since they were worried about deflation and a collapse of commerce. They kept them too low too long and in my opinion that helped cause the real estate bubble. We weren't distracted by 9/11 from the economy, 9/11 help cause the economic collapse.

    PS. Our enemies were willing to commit mass murder and suicide for their beliefs BEFORE we attacked Iraq. How exactly are their now "fortified" beliefs going to make things worse? They tried to destroy Wall Street, the headquarters of our military, and the center of political power. I guess since we attacked Iraq, next time they'll try to do more?

  4. Mike C.:

    Never forget.

    Never forgive.

  5. T:

    Friend: I agree wholeheartedly with your statement; to explain my earlier statement about our enemies, a parallel:

    Assume a group of extremist farmers from Israel managed to smuggle a bomb into Mecca, setting it off and killing three thousand pilgrims. An inflamed Saudi Arabia invades the US in response (using a fictional device rendering nuclear weapons ineffective, and maybe some hefty first strike to make this scenario convincing enough), based on the logic that the US supports Israel and the extremists were Israeli, succeeding in freeing the US from the unjust reign of democracy and establishing proper sharia law. In the process, regrettably, about a hundred thousand US civilians are killed, and there are a few high profile incidents of rape and murder that are brushed off by the invaders as the typical cost of war.

    Following such an invasion, how would you feel about Muslims in general, assuming that you had been mostly indifferent earlier? How would you feel if you had lost an extended family member or loved one? If you were living in Canada or Mexico or Europe instead and had been somewhat biased against Muslims earlier, would you feel more likely to take action? Would you be more willing to take arms and fight against what in this example is an overwhelmingly powerful enemy? If it was clear that you could not touch their military, would you be hateful enough to take revenge on enemy civilians?

    Of course it's a made up scenario, but the relative numbers (2750 killed in the WTC, 100k civilians killed in Iraq, Iraq not having anything to do with the inital attack, high profile incidents, overwhelmingly powerful opponent) match, as does the psychological value (WTC vs Mecca). I know how I'd feel in such a situation: I'd go from indifference and talk to wanting to take up arms for my country.

    I probably should have made clearer what I originally meant: whereas before we had a few tragically successful kook terrorists to deal with, now there'll be a much larger talent pool they can recruit from. And nothing good can come of that.

    On top of that, it doesn't help that the typical candidates in question tend to be poorly educated and exposed to a tightly propagandistic press - if the objective "They might have had a reason and even good intentions" version above already seems strong enough to incite action, imagine how this must sound if framed in thoroughly emotional terms mixed with a solid dose of prejudice and plain old lies and in light of no opposing viewpoints.

  6. LarryL:

    The motive that allowed the attacks is not hatred of America from any Muslim. What allowed the attacks was hatred of America from our own elected representatives.

    Look at where we are today as of a result. Look at where Islam is today as a result. Who benefits, who profits, today. I am "more" afraid of my government than I am of any religion.

  7. Greg:


    In your scenario, was Saudi Arabia at war with the U.S. already? Was the U.S. in violation of several UN resolutions that demanded a response?

  8. Xmas:


    Ironically enough, another response to the attacks on 9/11 would be to fulfill bin Laden's goal, force the US to remove it's troops from the holy land of Saudi Arabia, home of Mecca and most of the places visited by Mohammed.

    We should have just pulled out troops out of Saudi Arabia, and let Saddam roll his tanks into Mecca. Sure, the price of oil would have shot through the roof as the two major oil producing countries went at each other. But hey, it would have been the right thing to do. Why does the US have to be the policeman of the world?

  9. T:

    Greg: Possibly - you could construct the scenario either way; what I was attempting was that if some powerful nation hit the US even for what might be construed as the best of reasons, I'd want to hit back if my family had been killed.

    Xmas: fully agree. Standing in the way of inevitable violence only makes us a target (and, hey as important as oil is, raw oil supply isn't the major problem these days)

  10. NormD:

    The book "102 Minutes" was a real eye-opener. When we have a disaster, everyone becomes a hero, and we tend to ignore the screwups that made the disaster worse. Police and fire radios could not interoperate because the two departments hated each other. Police helicopters were not allowed to rescue people unless a fireman was aboard. People were told to stay in their offices. Emergency pathways were not clearly marked. Firemen ignored police warnings that the second building was about to collapse. Roof doors were locked. On and on.