Friday, September 11, 2009

9/11: eight years on

Whatever you make of it, September 11 2001 was the day that altered the course of history.

On Sep 11, 2001 I was two weeks away from starting a new job, so I was still enjoying student-type parasitism at its worst.

I got up semi-comatose at around 1pm, staggered downstairs, put the kettle on and robotically got BBC News 24 in the background.

I was literally in the middle of making my cup of tea when some breaking news from New York came in: a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers. I immediately remembered that the same place had been targeted by Islamists back in 1993 so I sat down perplexed and started watching the shocking images of a burning skyscraper.

As my two housemates Dave and Antonis joined in from their bedrooms, I could not believe my senses when another plane crashed into the second tower. By then, dozens of camera crews had been placed, which meant that the impact and its aftermath were filmed practically from all angles.

And that's how the day that changed history began. We stayed glued to the telly, literally, as more news came in that several planes were unaccounted for, and -as further reports came in about the Pentagon and Pennsylvania- I still remember the shared sense of unease not knowing exactly when the attacks were going to end.

The catastrophic brand that stemmed from Hollywood in the late 1990s, Independence Day, Arlington Road and the like, was actually happening live on telly, heralding the end of one of the most stable decades in history (minus Rwanda and Yugoslavia, which aren't footnotes, so maybe not).

Then the first tower started collapsing. I vividly remember how we'd all remarked at how well the impact from both plane crashes had been withstood. Equally, it was shocking to see both towers collapsing on themselves, in very similar fashion, one 56 minutes after it was struck and the other after 75 minutes. I still remember the BBC correspondent running for his life as two of the most imposing buildings on earth were crumbling into a terrifying cloud of dust and toxic debris.

As time went, a staggering amount of unaswered questions gradually started to emerge. Conspiracy theories were being drawn aplenty, some quite factual (more of the kind of "the government knew and let it happen"), some completely loopy (and that's without counting David Icke's 'reptilian conspiracy') .

Either way, how did the towers collapse and why so quickly? More importantly, why did they collapse on themselves? Why did WTC7, not struck by any plane, collapse as well? Why did the BBC announced its collapse 26 minutes before it happened? Why are their non-explanations so lame? Why were the steel remains from WTC sold so speedily for recycling? What to make of those claims about secondary explosions heard in the wake of the crash? How could the hijackers' passports be spotted practically intact amidst the megatons of rubble?

We will never know. One thing that shouldn't be forgotten is that, for all the pondering that takes place in the aftermath, the events happened like a flash and in a random, uncontrolled and manic fashion. To expect a totally orderly and rational response as things go along is to forget the uniquely unpredictable nature of what went on.

Also, though certain governments have been involved in all kinds of murky stuff for years (from proxy wars to remote controlled coup d'etats), the main problem with the most bizarre conspiracy theories is that -to have all that artifically orchestrated- you'd have to involve thousands of people at all levels over a period of time and the chances of not a single one, not even someone's partner, letting a word slip in eight years are just impossible.

We all knew however, that the US government was going to lash out. I remember watching the scenes of Palestinians celebrating thinking that they'd just scored a PR own-goal of epic proportions.

Eight years on, and as we watch heartbreaking re-runs of the events, it's easy to forget that 9/11 meant primarily George W Bush's ratings going through the roof, allowing him to wage two wars in succession: Afghanistan and Iraq, both absolutely devastating.

In terms of our daily lives, things are no longer the same really. A creeping sense of insecurity has been with us since, further bolstered by the Islamist attacks in Madrid (2004) and London (2005). A man virtually unknown by many, a bearded jihadist called Osama bin Laden, became the 21st century bogeyman.

Flying as we'd known it is no longer with us. Controls became much stricter, at times draconian, the result of a world a hundred times more paranoid than before. Civil liberties, on both sides of the Atlantic, have been restricted on the back of the pervading sense of "us and them" and the "threat to our national security". Racists have been handed more knee-jerk material on a tray and the preconceptions and misconceptions about entire populations are thriving.

One can't help but think, however, that in curbing our freedoms and giving way to irrationality, we gave in exactly to the logic of terrorism.


Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

I'm sure we are not the only ones blogging on the 8 year anniversary today, I just think that as more time has gone by the conspiracy theories hold less weight for me and it is crucial to seperate the act itself from how it was used and abused by Bush.

claude said...

Hey I just left a comment on your post.

I was actually expecting a wider coverage of 9/11 but, so far, very little 'blogwise'.

Blackbeard said...

A brilliant comment on what was a terrible tragedy, but also became the grounds for infinitely worse consequences.

Anonymous said...

I've only mentioned this a couple of times, but because it has now been renamed a "day of service", I think it merits a re-telling.

On 9-11-01, I was a consultant working on a project at One Police Plaza, a few blocks from the World Trade Center. At approximately 8:45 am, we heard a boom. We were all taken by surprise, and one of the ladies we were working with opened the window and started screaming. When we saw the first tower on fire, it appeared that the plane had crashed into it by accident.

A short while later, we heard another boom, saw the second tower on fire, and we instantly knew it was no accident, and that we were being attacked.

We were immediately evacuated, and a co-worker and I were fortunate enough to catch a cab, and headed to our hotel in midtown. The driver had news radio on and we heard that the towers had just fallen.
When we got back, the lobby was filled with people trying to get rooms. The hotel was providing them all water, coffee, juices, etc. All planes were grounded, and trains had stopped, so many people were now stuck in the city. I had many phone messages to return to concerned family and friends who knew I was there. After a few calls, I walked about 20 blocks to St. Vincent's hospital to give blood for those who were injured. I was actually turned away because hundreds of people were doing the same, and the wait was 3-4 hours. My next stop was a church. Walking through the streets was surreal. Everyone was walking around in a daze as if they didn't know where they were going, or what to do next. The next morning, Amtrack started a limited schedule and I was able to catch a train to Washington DC. From there, I rented a car and drove home to Charlotte.
I stayed home for a week and gave it a lot of consideration. I had been travelling full time for 4 years, being home only on weekends, and I had been considering a change anyway. I gave notice. About 2 months later, I started a new job that did not require travel.

I am grateful that I survived that day, but I think it is more important that we remember the 3000 people who didn't.

Prison Planet said...

We are being asked to put our faith in either the federal government, who deliberately lied about 9/11 in the very days after the attack in telling emergency workers and firefighters that the toxic air was safe to breathe, or the emergency workers and other rescue heroes who risked their lives and are still suffering the consequences of their courage.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Hey Alex! I bet the tinfoil hat trade is shrinking now Obama's in charge, how do you cope?

Tom said...

Racists have been handed more knee-jerk material on a tray

That's a very good point and bears thinking about. What kind of "Muslim" would bring down the inevitable vengeance on his "own people"?

claude said...

Well, a terrorist would do that.
Which is why it's important to distinguish a clear line between extremists (a tiny minority of nutters) and the greatest majority who have FA to do with that.

It's the warped logic of terrorism. Many a time the IRA caused a massive backlash against Irish people in Britain.

Left-wing terrorist groups on continental Europe had the same effect against radical (but peaceful) activists and so forth.

Tom said...

The Gladio bombings also caused an electoral backlash against the left, only it turned out they were committed by right-wing elements of the state apparatus.

Tom said...

Claude, I also left a comment in reply to you on Mr Hoffman's blog, but he didn't see fit to allow you to read it for some reason. What's up with that Dan?

claude said...

Alright Tom,
I take your point about 'Gladio'.
But how about the Red Brigades causing a backlash against what was then known as the 'new left' with civil liberties restrictions, detention without trial, etc?
Unless of course you think that they were totally manipulated as well, which, as a theory, has been circulating for a while (though I dont buy it).

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Tom, you're a cunt, that's why.

Tom said...

I'm not in a position to comment about the "red brigades" so I won't. I have no theory.

I agree that over-the-top violent actions and the like are counterproductive and of course I don't support them.

Tom said...

Daniel, I'm not the one wearing a squadron-leader's moustachios am I?

Are you hungover or something?

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Judge the tache, judge your mum.

Tom said...

I'll say this for you, Danny Boy, you defend your ignorance with real passion. Huzzah!

Tom said...

Claude, this was the statement I wanted to point out was inaccurate from H-G's site:

Some people are ready to say that the bombers' CCTV footage is doctored but then they gloss over the video issued by the terrorists that claims the attack.

This article points out the fallacy which many people still repeat:

"Yet in neither video do Khan or Tanweer mention sacrificing their lives or martyrdom. In that respect they are less explicit than the videos referred to above which failed to secure convictions."

It's in the public domain that the videos in question dated from long before 2005, when the 2 were ostensibly going to join the Afghan resistance. The question of them carrying out suicide bombings in that country or any other remains open, because they didn't mention suicide bombings.

I don't rule out the possibility of course, just question the evidence for it.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...



Not proven.