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.