On September 11th, and in the days and weeks that followed, I tried to write about what I was feeling. You’ll find copied below the complete text of the journal I kept online at my original website, mostly hidden from the public view. My writing just kind of dropped off after a few weeks, mostly out of disappointment that many of my predictions had come true, and also that I knew we were probably in for a long, drawn out war on terror. It’s been 10 years since that day. It’s important to remember. We must never forget.
What follows is the text from my original journal.
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September 11, 2001
The terrorism we had only suspected might come (but hoped would not) finally struck us today.
Thousands of Americans have died on the soil of their own homeland today, and there was nothing they could have done to prevent this tragedy.
Where once we might have felt some measure of safety and security, there is now none.
The world has changed irrevocably today, and I just wanted to record my thoughts and feelings about this now, …before my own denial, anger or fear alters my perception of the truth into something of less clarity or relevance to anyone who might ask of this day later in my life, or long after we have all gone.
The phone rang early this morning, and I handed it to my wife after hearing her brother’s voice on the other end. I had been trying to wake up for a while, but was still groggy from a restless night before. I heard Cristina tell me to turn on the news and that something had happened. I was awake instantly.
The second World Trade Center tower in New York had just collapsed, and the news stations were all replaying the videos. First, they showed the jetliner crashing into the second tower, and while still reeling from the surreal pictures flashing in front of me, I watched as both towers fell to the ground.
I was in absolute shock, not even hearing the voices on the TV, but was somehow able nonetheless to figure out the details I needed to: Terrorists have struck on American soil. Multiple attacks and multiple targets. I have to presume a West Coast threat also exists. Call parents and make sure no one is going anywhere “strategic” for a while. Turn on the coffee, the other TV and the computer. Start contacting, messaging and e-mailing friends. …And somewhere between the coffee and the computer, I pulled our flag down from the garage and put it in front of our house – at half-staff.
I’m not sure why I did that last thing… I don’t think of myself as overly patriotic, and I’m not in the military… But there are several active soldiers and a long military history in my family, …the flag just seemed to happen automatically: Simply, my country is in trouble, and it’s my duty – at the very least – to support all those whose jobs just got that much tougher today. My dad told me over the phone that he was proud of me for doing that.
There’s a grade school across the street from our house. I was in the garage when class let out today. I saw two middle-eastern-looking children running away from the school at top speed… The way they were running made me wonder if they were scared of being beaten up by their classmates because of all of this… I don’t know… but they were the first kids out of school today, and they were running REAL fast to get outta there. I also saw two middle-eastern-looking parents walking to the school to retrieve and walk their daughter home… They’re obviously afraid for their own reasons… and that’s a shame – given that they are Americans, and shouldn’t have to fear retaliation by their fellow citizens.
Then, I was in my den a few minutes ago and heard through my open window somebody in a passing truck yelling at someone else walking on the street. It sounded like they were yelling “Don’t fuck with America.” I looked at whoever was walking on the street and noticed the dark haired woman who had just been yelled at by the motorist. I can’t really describe the look in her eye, other than to say it seemed to be the kind of reaction someone would have if they were expecting to be abused or vilified for their ethnicity…Anyways… the guy in the truck was obviously a dumb-ass because (1.) he felt it necessary to yell like an idiot at someone who had no part, affiliation or support for this terrorism and (2.) she wasn’t from any of those terrorist countries anyways. She was Indian. Idiots like that make me ashamed and embarrassed. We’re ALL immigrants from somewhere else – aren’t we?
It’s that kind of “patriotism” that really scares me. In this time of fear and confusion, the last thing we need is for the ignorant idiots to use this as another excuse to hate and attack innocent AMERICANS. There is no justification for this type of behavior – by foreign terrorists OR our fellow citizens.
But I predict we’ll see some McCarthyism-like limits placed on our freedoms, racial profiling, antagonism and discrimination towards foreigners in general, and Arabs in particular. I’m not proud to be an American whenever some group of citizens attacks or denies another their inalienable rights… for any reason. These aren’t the ideals upon which our republic was founded. We’re supposed to have our disagreements over politics, …and the authority to resist or even depose our government and any institution of power that abuses our rights… But at no time does any American citizen have the right to attack, discriminate or deny rights to any other citizen. Period. Never forget you are free, and that your freedom is an absolute and inalienable guarantee… not a ‘privilege’ (contrary to what far too many politicians have begun saying recently).
What happened today should make that point even more clear for us. So many people elsewhere in the world have no idea what freedom truly means. In our fight against terrorists, I hope we don’t forget exactly what it is that we’re fighting for.
Wednesday, September 12, 2001:
I still can’t believe what I’ve been watching on TV. The sheer scope of the attack is almost incomprehensible.
No one can deny these terrorists intended to destroy several more of the most significant targets on American soil – where, on any given day, over 70,000 people could be working and doing business. Not to mention the additional (estimated) 30,000 visitors, tourists and even workers in nearby buildings who could have also been killed (if the towers had fallen to any side, like a domino – rather than collapse almost vertically as they had).
This terrorist attack could have produced nearly twice the number of American casualties in less than two hours than were incurred in all of the (14 years of our participation in the) VietnamWar.
I’ve also been messaging with a couple of friends today, and am still looking at the news.
Louise lives next to Moffett Airfield and was worried about being a possible target. I told her it’s probably not a politically or strategically significant target… and that she shouldn’t worry about it. Understandably, …that didn’t seem to help much…
I had happened to chat with a former co-worker Monday (the day before). Eddie told me he’s now working at a company called Akamai. And now I’m reading a CNN report about industry and media figures thought to be among the airline crash victims: “DanielLewin, co-founder and chief technology officer at Akamai Technologies Inc., is said by his company to have died Tuesday aboard American Airlines Flight 11. He was 31.”
That one just hit a little closer to home.
Linda and I exchanged some e-mails and she forwarded another from her friend…
Sent: Tuesday, September 11, 200111:56 PM
To: Linda C Schenk
Hey, Eddie R works for Akamai – doesn’the?
I can’t believe how close to home this is getting… Has anyone in Maryland you know been effected by this?
From: Linda C Schenk
Sent: Wednesday, September 12, 2001 12:20 AM
I know. I keep thinking it is fake. *thank god i didn’t take the white house job* My friend Greg in LA is from Boston, and his dad was on was of those flights YESTERDAY. He’s safe in LA. My brother has a friend Melissa who goes to school in NY. Her uncle was badly burned, and one cousin is dead, another missing. My mom’s friend’s brother works at the Pentagon, we haven’t heard anything about him. And this all ties into the USS Cole, which killed my friend Sean’s brother. It seems so unreal as I write this. I did hear that all the FB execs were in NY (the BN office is about 2 miles from there), but everyone is ok… on a funny note, Ag and Blaine were supposed to be there today, but in typical Ag fashion “he didn’t feel like going”. hahaha i keep looking at the skyline here and thinking how tall i think the buildings here are… but the towers in NY were almost twice as tall. i don’t think tv can do it justice. just shows you how hollywood has numbed me to violence. my mom was watching live when the second plane hit. she just said it was unreal. the pentagon is barely getting any coverage, and that could be 800 people. i mean, how many got killed at colombine? and the whole country freaked. they are showing new jersey rescue workers now. i should try and get in touch with my friend who lives there. she knows a lot of cops. i stocked up on water and batteries and i have food in case of emergency. i know everyone here in california just laughs about earthquakes and disaster but this shows you don’t know. i had to go get a comedy movie cause this is just too much. Bowfinger…have you seen it? I don’t want to spoil it but there is one scene with the dog that kills me. this is crazier than y2k. and just think, last night i was pissed cause i have pink hair just in time for my interview on thursday. my hairdresser messed it up. Hahah
From: Linda C Schenk
Sent: Wednesday, September 12, 2001 12:39 PM
Subject: FW: Sherry and I are ok
insane. this is a friend of my roommates…
From: Anish Srivastava
Sent: Wednesday, September 12, 2001 12:13 PM
To: Linda C. Schenk
Subject: Fwd: Sherry and I are ok
Hey everyone thanks for all the emails and phone calls I am really moved by the outpouring of concern.
I know a lot of you thought I still work at world trade 2 but I moved in Feb. to Royal Bank of Canada across the street from the twin towers.
I was not feeling well yesterday and for the first time in 5 months I decided to take the day off!! (God was definitely watching over me)
It was impossible to call anyone on cells or land lines from my apartment on the upper east side.
The phone traffic in Manhattan was unreal. Sherry was actually at work and actually saw World trade 1 fall down in front of her eyes. She got completely covered by the oncoming cloud of soot and dust. She managed to get to the Hudson river and jump on a boat that took her to safety across the river in NJ. As far as I know, except for one friend, every single one of our friends somehow made it out of this tragedy ok.
My building’s windows have been blown out and downtown has been completely closed off so I won’t be able to go to work for at least a week maybe longer. I’m at Sherry’s mom’s place in Long Island right where I am going to stay for a little while. Sherry is still a little shaken up (she actually saw people jumping for their lives when she went outside after the first plane crash; her building was directly behind the twin towers) but other than that everything is ok.
I can be reached at her mom’s house or on my cell. In the words of Fredrick Neitszche – “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” – Aseem
It’s now Friday, September 28.
I’ve been saving the newspapers since the attack. We still haven’t launched any military offensive. The fear now is bio/chem terrorism. There are apparently more terrorists who have been looking at crop-dusters and getting truck-driving/hazardous materials licenses. Jeez. I’m suffering the effects of what is most likely a simple cold right now… but I can’t help wondering… and it really scares me… what if?
Just chatted with Louise again. A childhood friend of hers from England was at the Trade Center for business, and hasn’t been heard from since. Her father was actually supposed to go on the trip but got sick at the last minute and sent her friend (who works for her father) instead.
Louise told me “…my dad was supposed to be there. but at the last minute Mary got sick. flu + cancer = bad. so he stayed to be with her and sent our family friend who works for his company… and (who) is only three years older than me. And nobody’s heard from him since.”
“How long ago did you find out about your friend?” I asked. “I watched the coverage of the crashes all day, and then that night my dad called (to tell me). …I’d ostensibly watched our friend die all day long…”
Thursday, January 31, 2002:
It’s been a little over four months since the attack.
I wanted to write about how the major corporations almost immediately began exploiting the event. Tens of thousands of workers from several companies were fired within one week of September 11. Even though layoffs of that magnitude require months and months of planning and Board approvals, the companies somehow managed to pull it off and justified their actions by blaming it on the attack – and the economy. …And no one’s even bothered to challenge them.
I’m also mad that the airlines started telling the country that they will do whatever is necessary to ensure our safety… while at the same time, they were meeting with politicians behind closed doors and filing hundreds of relatively unnoticed legal actions in the courts, in order to avoid having to pay a few bucks more for additional security personnel or better luggage scanners. Bastards.
Other companies ran TV commercials telling the public “hey, ..we understand… we’re all in this together… oh, and would you mind buying something from us instead of the other guys?” Within three weeks, everyone was using the American Flag to sell everything from long-distance plans to children’s toys. There are already picture albums, photo books, and patriotic music collections for sale in all the stores… I can’t describe the anger I still feel, every time I see anything or anyone attempting to profit from what is essentially the murder of thousands of innocent Americans.
I was contacted by the Wall Street Journal in mid-November. One of their reporters was doing a story on some of the companies who might be exploiting the attack. He got my name from the Harris Polls in which I participate regularly, and to which I had recently submitted some related comments. He was supposed to run his story in early December, but I have yet to see it. I’m guessing it was pulled for the same reason that all the news channels are now airing dozens of programs praising the Bush presidency, the rigors of life in the White House, our military, etc. – ever since Bush’s approval rating jumped up to around 85%.
If anyone asks if we have a free Press in our country today… I would say no. How can we have a free Press, when any potentially unpopular story or critical analysis simply cannot be aired or printed by the mainstream media?
Our Press appears now to be a wholly owned corporate franchise, dedicated to the preservation and protection of … their consumer-base, and the expansion of their markets. Serving and sacrificing themselves to …the bottom-line and profit-objectives in all instances. Never wavering from the promise… they’ve made to their respective Boards and investors.
They cannot challenge popular opinion or institutions, and are therefore now utterly useless in the Cause of Freedom.
Also, the president gave his State of the Union address earlier this week.
There was a moment on Wednesday, September 12th, when I briefly glimpsed the true character of the president. His compassion and caring for those who lost their lives was amazing.
Unfortunately, the other crap appears to have taken control of his life (the Presidency) again. I’m not sure if he realizes that his advisors and strategists are using the event (and, if he only realized it, him) to their advantage. Go ahead Mr. President. Use the widow and someone else’s final words to score some political points. I never could have imagined those now famous words “Let’s roll” could be used to justify an expansion of corporate welfare programs, increasing the president’s authority to make decisions without Congressional approval, or to promote oil drilling in Alaska.
I’m just hoping the net result of the Bush presidency is that the country is left in better shape than when he started. He might be a popular president, but I’m tired of politicians who just aren’t very strong, personally. I know he didn’t write that speech, but if he had at least read the goddamn thing before stepping on stage that night, I’d like to think he would have been utterly disgusted at the thought of September 11th being used for personal or political gain. If it had been me, I would have torn that speech to pieces and fired everyone of those scumbag bastard piece-of-shit political advisors working for me.
And on another note… San Francisco airport was closed most of that same day because they got a positive test result on someone’s shoes, but the guy apparently had no idea what was going on, picked up his shoes and probably boarded his departing flight. The airport tried using their surveillance videos to get a picture of his face, but their equipment is apparently of such poor quality that the video is pretty much useless for that purpose (which leaves me wondering if there is any logical reason why shitty video cameras were even installed in a high security area to begin with).
September 11, 2002:
Looking over my journal this morning, I realized I had pretty much just stopped adding entries after the first week. I had tried saying more a couple months later, but it’s just so difficult finding the words…
But, this morning at 6am, I lowered the flag in front of my house to half-staff.
Watching the first of the memorial services this morning, the feelings I’d tried to forget this past year have all come flooding back.
But the memories remain. I had worried I might forget the images of that day and all the little things I’ve experienced related to that event, since then … but I will never forget. And some day soon, maybe I’ll put my small collection of memories to paper. Memories which include something that happened to me that afternoon, when I went to my local gas-station and entered to pay the man behind the counter.
He was from that region of the world, and we locked eyes… It was only for a few seconds, but in that brief moment, without any words, he and I exchanged so many feelings and emotions. He wondered if I hated him, and I wondered if I should. We could read almost every emotion in each others’ eyes in those seconds, and then I decided he and I were members of the same family – both sharing the pain of this terrible thing – while at the same time I could see that he had come to the same conclusion. We smiled slightly, in acceptance of one another, while exchanging our mutual sorrow, …and then he handed me a small flag – which I still have in the window of my car to this day.
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I stopped writing at this point… Life and war took over, and we had to move on…