This is the first and only piece I ever wrote on the 2001 World Trade Centre terrorist attack.
I wrote on the night of September 11, and have reposted it in various media every year since then.
I want to remember this because almost everything of major significance since then in the world of warfare is either a direct or indirect result of this event.
I’m not sure if the world will ever be at peace. And I’m not even sure, these days, if I am even angry at the right people. But it is what it is. I hope you read this and remember too.
It was Tuesday, September 11, 2001. It was a day like almost every other day.
My wife was on her way to Business Depot to pick up some chrome coated Bristol board and paper for some signs she was making for her upcoming miniatures show. My daughter was in school. My son had just called to say he was coming over to give the Wife some money he owed her. The dog was in the back yard, looking for squirrels to bark at.
I had just finished off my 107th edition of the Couch Potato Chronicles. Dotting the I’s. Crossing the t’s. Spellchecking. Making sure everything that needed to be bold was bold. Fixing some of the phrasing to make it sound more like me.
The rest of the day was going to be spent updating an sci-fi screenplay that the Wife had just finished typing into the computer for me, cleaning my office, moving a bunch of files around, invoicing two web site jobs I had just completed and doing it all at a leisurely pace ‘cause it was a nice, bright, cool day. And I love the fall. Yep…it was pretty much business as usual here.
It was about 9:30. I was listening to Bob Dylan singing his Academy Award winning song ‘Things Have Changed’ on my I-Tunes when the phone rang. It was my Wife. She told me to go turn on CNN, because a plane had crashed into a building in New York City and she thought I might want to check it out.
And that’s when it all went to hell real fast. I went down to the family room and turned on the TV. The first thing I saw was one of the towers of the World Trade Centre in south Manhattan lit up like a cheap sparkler on Canada Day. The top twenty or so floors were billowing black smoke. I couldn’t tell whether I was watching it in real time or just some replay.
Then suddenly there was another shot. It looked like it was taken from the top of a building close by. It was the second tower of the WTC. There was a jet airliner flying around it in a tight loop. A few seconds later the damn plane smashed into the building and sent a bright orange fireball out the other side.
My brain went into sensory overload. I could not believe what I was seeing. Who the hell aims a jet that big at a building that big in the middle of a city that big?
Christ on a crutch! What was happening? Some kind of alien invasion? My mind could not absorb this in any logical way.
As I continued to watch, the buildings became consumed with fire and thick gray smoke. The camera closed in on the top of the first building and I could see black specks tumbling out of the billowing smoke clouds. But they weren’t specks. They were people, jumping out the windows, some eighty stories up, choosing to die that way rather than being incinerated by the flames. My God.
A few minutes later these buildings started imploding. It looked like one of those shows you see on the Discovery Channel where some Italian family wires explosives to some outdated Las Vegas casino and lets it rip.
Except there was something different about this. Something very weird. There were no planted explosives. Just the nearly nuclear superheat of thousands of gallons of jet fuel working like the world’s biggest blowtorch, melting the steel infrastructure of two of the world strongest buildings like they were made of paper mache.
My mind was reeling. I shut off the TV and went back up to my office, consumed with the higher mathematics of just how many people had been and would be snuffed out of existence in New York City today.
I went back down the kitchen and got a bottle of Fantastic and a roll of paper towels. It had to be at least 10 thousand. And what about the people on the planes?
I turned on the radio, which was set on the Fan 590, my sports station of choice. They were broadcasting the ABC coverage and I’ve got to tell you, listening to this on the radio was even worse than watching it on TV.
I started to cry for all the lost souls this day was producing, for no other reason than the fucking pissant struggle in a shit-hole part of the world that had been going on since before I was born. This tribal war. This trivial pursuit. This Muslim versus Jew vs American smackdown. This pathetic, regressive, pointless struggle. This situation that had become more insane than humane.
That’s what had changed my life, probably forever. Jesus!
I stripped my work surfaces down to nothing as I tried to control my rage. I sprayed the Fantastic and wiped it up as I reflected on how lucky most of us were, never to have been touched by the evil and the hatred that fuels these primitive wars in the Middle East.
Then, with one vicious gesture, there we were up to our necks in it.
God damn it all to hell. Thousands and thousands of innocent souls are screaming in my head. I scrubbed and scrubbed as more information started flowing into my brain. A third plane crashed into the pentagon killing another thousand.
As a fourth plane bound for God knows where crashed 60 miles outside of Pittsburgh.
As rescue crews in New York stood silently, helplessly by, unable to get anywhere near the devastation for fear of being killed themselves, the souls were screaming louder now.
My wife and I watched for most of the day. But nothing got better. Things only became more vivid. More real. More insane.
Its past midnight as I write this. The long night has begun. The souls still scream. I know that my life, that all our lives, will never be the same again. We have been touched by an evil that most of us have managed to avoid all our lives. And now, through the grief and shock and rage, through the information and the rhetoric and the speculation and the denials, my thoughts have only just now begun to crystallize.
It’s a terrible thing to feel hate. Especially when you have gone through your life trying, insofar as you can, to do the right thing by the human race. It’s even more terrible when evil is allowed to reach out and spoil the lives people have worked so hard to build and the freedoms we all cherish so much.
But there it is. A sadness beyond belief. And for what? This all boils down to bullshit religious perversion, tribal warfare and economic imperialism and not necessarily in that order.
But very little of that matters because right now, in my dazed and confused brain, there are only souls screaming in the September darkness.
I want to remember this. Someday, I will figure it out. Someday we all will. I hope.
Jim Murray September 11, 2011.