Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I Didn't Have to Turn on the TV, I Could See 9/11 From my Window

Today, a lot of the memories of 9/11 came flooding back to me.  This doesn't normally happen, usually I'm aware that it's 9/11 but I don't really focus on it.  Maybe it's because it's also a Tuesday and the weather looks like it is almost exactly the same as that day (clear blue skies over Manhattan). 

It was definitely a slow news cycle around that time with the biggest stories seemed to be shark attacks off the Florida coast, though nobody could say whether these attacks were more frequent than usual.  I definitely noticed that nobody talked about shark attacks after 9/11.

I'll always remember that moment when I found out there was a problem with the towers.  I was working on the 28th floor of a building on 42nd street with an amazing view of downtown.  My CFO and I were chatting in my office and he was looking out my window.  Right after the first plane hit he said "hey, what just happened?"  There was a pillar of smoke coming out of the top of one of the towers.  It didn't look that large at first from our vantage point so we thought it probably wasn't a very big deal.  One of our traders mentioned that CNN said it was a small plane that hit.  Again, that didn't seem like a big deal.  If you picture a single engine Cessna flying into a giant steel structure, the Cessna clearly loses.  But then the blaze kept getting worse, it wasn't just a pillar any more, it was clearly engulfing the first tower.  I called a girl who I had been seeing off and on, who worked at Morgan Stanley and asked her if she was seeing this.  Just as I was mid sentence, I saw a giant fireball come out of the mid-section of the second tower.  My voice broke midstream and I said "the second tower just exploded!"  At that point, it was all very obviously a big deal and we all knew that this was a terrorist attack.  One tower can be an accident, but not both.  One of my co-workers from Lebanon interjected that she hoped that Bush wouldn't do anything rash as he is "too militaristic".  There was an attack on thousands of innocent civilians by terrorists and the first thing out of her mouth was to hope the US President doesn't do anything rash?  I don't think I ever looked at her the same way again.

Since we had a wall of windows facing south, most of us just stared out the windows like they were massive TV screens, watching the carnage and wondering how many people are currently trapped.  I think we came up with 10,000.  Then the South Tower collapsed.  It was a horrific site. This massive tower that could be seen for miles was turning into dust, dust that was literally enveloping all of downtown from our angle.  It was at that point that me and my co-worker, Ed, decided to "get the hell out of dodge".  Ed lived in Brooklyn and knew there was no way for him to get home so I offered him my place, which was on the Upper East Side.  We got out of our building as fast as we could because at that point we felt that any tall building could be a target and we were sitting ducks on the 28th floor.  We decided to get to Central Park as fast as we could as there wouldn't be any targets there.  On the way, we heard people talk about how the Sears Tower had been hit, or the mall in Washington was on fire, all of this adding heavily to our anxiety.  Once we got to Central Park, it was like another world, everything was peaceful with people walking to work through it, many obviously oblivious to what was going on.  Eventually we got to my place.  I think we downed 2 beers each in about 30 seconds.  Eventually more friends came over, one of whom had an apartment in Tribeca who couldn't go home (I had actually just seen his new place that past weekend and he commented "look at the great view of the World Trade Center I have from my roof").
We did a lot of drinking but there was no merriment.  We were just talking about how this happened and what was likely to happen next.  Eventually the party wound down and I had 8 people sleeping in my studio apartment. 

Since the markets were closed, I didn't have to go to work.  All I did do all day was play video games to pass the time, drink constantly and read the news.  I wasn't really in the mood for anything else.  I tried watching movies like Caddyshack to cheer me up but I just couldn't find the jokes funny.  Nothing was funny, all was dark.  Of course it didn't help that whenever there was a southerly wind you could smell all the dead bodies piled underneath the rubble.  It was everywhere.  I even went to a funeral service for Cantor Fitzgerald employees killed in the towers.  In the booklet were bios, including one person who had just started the day before.  I could do nothing else but cry.

Eventually, many of the wounds healed, for me and this country.  But I will never forget as long as I live.  I will never forget how agents of the religion of war and genocide attacked innocent civilians in New York simply because they were who they were.  People who loved freedom, their families, their work and America. 

I had been a down the line libertarian before that day, but no more.  America needs a strong defense to combat people that are out to kill Americans at home and abroad.  If we lay down our arms, they will still come to kill us because its not really our actions which are the problem, its our very existence.  I'm not saying we need to invade all our enemies and make them protectorates.  I've come to the conclusion is that we just kill the guys we know are trying to kill us and then move on.  No nation building.  No occupations.  Just strikes with air and special forces that will make our enemies scared to even look out a window.  Unfortunately, I know that isn't going to happen.  It's just not PC enough for us anymore.  Our resolve has weakened and now our defenses are probably weaker then they were before 9/11.  You can't even refer to Islamic terrorists or jihad without being called names despite the fact that every single one of the hijackers on 9/11 were Islamic terrorists waging jihad on all of us.  We're in a clash of civilizations and unfortunately we are losing.  9/11 woke us up for a while but it seems like we have fallen back asleep.  Let's hope it doesn't take another attack like 9/11 to wake us up again.


  1. 9/11 continues to evoke strong feelings for all of us. But isn't rationality the greatest protection against lunatic religious extremism?

    You write, "We're in a clash of civilizations and unfortunately we're losing." How do you figure? You believe Bin Laden's brand of militant right wing Islam is taking over the world? The greatest impact I believe Osama had was to cause us to abandon the rule of law in favour of secret executive powers. Surely your libertarian streak can't approve of that. That Obama has continued in George Bush's path on this issue is to me his greatest shame.

    You write,"You can't even refer to Islamic terrorists or jihad without being called names." Whom do you talk to that reacts this way? What people object to is language that lumps all Muslims in with a tiny number of lunatic zealots. Don't you object to people who argue that all financiers are Maddofs, Rajaratnams and Boeskys? (I'm guessing from your piece that you're connected to that world.)

    You write, "We just kill the guys we know are going to kill us." Who gets to decide? (Right now that's what Obama's doing with drones, and I, for one, am not happy about it.) Would you take the Bishop Almaric line-"Kill them all, and God will know his own." Isn't that the kind of religious extremism you want us to guard against? How do you kill them without massive collateral damage? How do you prevent that collateral damage inspiring yet more lunatics?

    9/11 was indeed a wake up call, but it should remind us that the world is a complicated place, and simplistic answers are likely to backfire. Surely the answer to some crazy but cunning plotters with a warped view of the world isn't to come up with an equally warped view. Equally it can't be to abandon the principles of the Declaration and the Constitution that once made us a beacon of reason.

    1. "religious extremism"? I dont remember members of Opus Dei flying into towers or blowing themselves up. Its all one religion, one which espouses a totalitarian system of government which controls all aspect of life. The main difference between Al Qaeda and so called "moderate" islamists is that Al Qaeda wants to use violence first, "moderate" islamists would prefer to use it later, when more groundwork has been laid.

      Remember, we consider the Saudi's to be moderate and it is illegal for anyone who is not a muslim to enter Mecca and Medina. Is that moderate? They fund terrorist groups through various charities, is that moderate?

  2. Is it moderate to say "Kill anyone we think might be dangerous?" You seem to be suggesting that all Muslims are "Islamists", whatever that means to you. It sounds like you think all Muslims want to take over the world. I don't know much about Opus Dei, I thought it was just a branch of Jesuits, but you don't have to look hard to find plenty of historical examples of atrocities committed in the names of religions other than Islam, if that's your point, irrellevant though it seems to me. (Note the reference to Almaric above!)
    You say it's politically incorrect to talk about terrorists. That's not true anywhere I've been. It is, however, obviously bigotry to treat all Muslims as if they were potential terrorists. That's so obvious I can't even tell what you're saying. Explain again please.
    I don't know any people who believe the things you seem to believe. I'm desperately trying to understand your point of view, because it's not unusual in America these days to hold the beliefs you write about. To me they seem entirely at odds with the real world as I see it, (it's simple historical fact that, for better or worse, Reagan increased Federal spending over 30% and ballooned the national debt- it's not arguable in the world I live in) and I'm trying hard to grasp why you hold them.
    Cheers, Sasha

    1. Not all muslim are Islamists, just as not all Jews are orthodox and not all christians are catholic. But all religious muslims are Islamists and the Koran is a racist and genocidal document that calls for war on unbelievers and well, Jews specifically.

      As a student of history, I know there have been plenty of atrocities by religions but Im looking for modern examples not ones from hundreds of years ago. The problem as I see it is that Islam is stuck in the middle ages. They are essentially like pre-reformation inquisition-era catholicism. Note that most countries based on the judeo-christian tradition are secular democracies while islamic countries are definitely not, there are a handful at most. Amongst Arab countries I dont think there are any.

      I never said Reagan didnt increase federal spending, he did. If you see my post here, http://libertarian-neocon.blogspot.com/2012/07/federal-federal-debt-is-masking-major.html I do criticize Reagan. But Obama raised spending even more as a % of GDP, that is also a fact.