9/11, 20 Years later

Never forget? I was taking notes.

Remember, remember that day in September,

Airplanes and Terror and plot

I see no error in thinking that terror

Should never be forgot.**

You know what today is.

When I first walked into English class at St. John's University, it was a little before 9am. The professor was one Dr. Robert Forman. He was always entertaining, and there's something about him that told you he cared that you learned something in his class.

The first person I saw was my classmate Tony. I said hello, and he asked, "Did you hear something about a plane running into the World Trade Center?"

And I laughed.

All I could think is what idiot could have missed noticing that there were two rather large glass and metal buttersticks in the sky right in front of him?

I explained that to Tony. He agreed, and I gave it no thought at all for the rest of the 90-minute class.

I went from one class to another -- Christian Spirituality and Mysticism, 10:40am, taught by a priest named Ceserta. He was not only pleasant, but happy. He was very Italian, and joked about it often.

When I arrived, the professor wasn't there. Someone came into class saying that classes were canceled.

My first thought was, “Huh. That's odd.”

I went to the nearest inter-university phone and called my father -- who was an Assistant Dean at SJU. I told him my class was cancelled, and how are you doing?

"Come to the office."




Walking from one building to the other required that I cross from Marillac Hall, past Council and Newman Halls — a narrow outside corridor as well directed as any sidewalk intersection without a traffic stop.

Ironically, that narrow corridor afforded the best view of the Manhattan skyline that the University had to offer, without going into a building or a roof. — SJU is, for the record, the highest point in Queens.

But, I didn't stop for a second. My pace was quick and even, mainly because there were so few people in my way -- for once.

Though there something that gave me an odd feeling at the time. There were clusters of people with their cell phones out. After the third such group, I felt like I was in a scene from Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds.

I walked into my father’s office at the other side of the library, and before I could even open my mouth, my father said, “Planes have crashed into the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. The twin towers are gone, and the Pentagon is burning.”

And I remember this quite clearly, because I had a little red notebook with me at the time… my first thought was “Didn’t Tom Clancy already write this novel?”

My father suggested I go to the library, and observe the skyline. By the time I got there, the library was locked. So I walked back to the terrace corridor I had just walked over.

Instead of a skyline, there were ground based storm clouds running from south to north.

I stood there for an unknown length of time, completely focused on it. I didn’t even notice my acquaintance Andy walk up next to me.

“I can't wrap my mind around it,” he said. “I can’t believe they're gone.”

If I replied to him, I don’t remember.

Much of what I had from that day I have preserved in my little red notebook — a habitual writer's thing, a notebook.

I thought Fr. Andrew Greeley (RIP) was writing a column at that moment… and he was, one which focused on the calmness of New Yorkers evacuating into New Jersey.

I thought I had to rewrite my thriller novels, because one series involved a CIA assassin, and I knew what she was doing at that exact moment in history.

I also knew Osama bin Laden was a dead man walking. One way or another, someone was going to hunt him down, and shoot him. Probably after he was hurt… a lot. Shooting his eyes out? Not how I expected him to go, but as things go, actually kinda badass — but that’s like asking someone which Bond villain death they’d prefer — Goldfinger or Kananga.

On the way home, we had to drive around Union Turnpike, since the local park was a great site for emergency vehicles to assemble.

My family were only able to watch television that day because we had cable. We must have watched the towers fall a few dozen times by the end of the day. There were theories Camp David might be a target, because the Camp David accords had an anniversary a few days later. There was supposedly a car bomb outside the state department.

The initial estimated dead: 55,000. By 1pm, it had become 10,000. That’s either the Hand of God, or a Hell of a lucky day.

At 6pm that evening, I was amused by a report… four hours after the attacks in New York, parts of Kabul were burning. The Taliban were under attack. I wondered if (1) Mossad moved really fast, or (2), the dissidents wanted to get on our good side. I would later learn that a leader of the Northern Alliance had been assassinated by the Taliban several days before, and that was their reprisal.

By that evening, the report was that there were 200 firemen missing, and 70 cops MIA.

We had learned there were people who jumped out of the towers rather than burn.

The next day, there was a pledge of support from Vladimir Putin. Thousands of pints of blood were on the way from Israel… but most of the blood wouldn’t be used, because the majority of those who died never made it to a hospital.

At 7:36 am on the morning of September 12th, the news had a good image of the Empire State building, with smoke in the background…

There was also no looting… because this is not Los Angeles. This is New York, where even the criminals were nice enough (or smart enough) to stay home.

Sigh. It was also 20 years ago. The city was different back then. But that’s a different blog.

There was a seven hour wait to give blood, until people were turned away.

We had shocking news: The NY Times said something nice about the mayor they called a nazi, Mayor Rudy Giuliani, calling him Churchill in a baseball cap.

NY Governor Pataki had come down. He thanked a fireman in critical condition for his service, and the fireman said, “Well, what do you expect?” That’s pretty much the New York I knew.

And by night, there were so many who showed up with lit candles, the city looked like it was on fire.

By January 20, 2002, the body count was down to around 2,900 dead.

Ann Coulter made a statement that many were pissed off about: “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.”

A quote which could be offensive if not for two things … one: if you ever get a chance to read that article, you will notice that it was about mostly an obituary for a friend of hers, Barbara Olsen … she was on the plane that flew into the Pentagon. So, she was annoyed.

When asked about it later, she told Fox news Democrat Alan Colmes “We better convert them to something, even if it's what you call ‘real Islam.’ ” Which, frankly, converting the 10% of the Muslim world that hate us (about 120 million, give or take) to something other than a sharia-variant would be a good idea.

My feelings about it were simple, and later summed up by a quote from the tv show The West Wing:

“We need to kill them. We need to find them and to kill them. We kill them. Then we find out who sent them and we kill them too. You kill the people who did it. You kill the people who planned it. Then you kill everyone who is happy about it…”

In the Muslim world (which included parts of New Jersey), there were people who had parties over 9-11; if someone feels happy about killing civilians, there is something wrong with that person as a human being. That person is about the same level as the average serial killer.

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As little as ten years later, the cops and firemen who were there are being locked out of any 9/11 memorial. They’ve locked out any and all priests from even showing up.

The cross forged from I-beams of the tower are being threatened by atheists with nothing better to do. They were told to shove it.


Putin is on the warpath and Israel barely talks to us — probably because we won’t listen.

The unions who showed up in force to clear the rubble of the towers have started to turn it into a political freakshow.

Rye play land in New York has a “Muslim Day,” and it turned into a riot because they banned all headgear from roller coasters. This includes a a hijab — something about not wanting a woman strangled or decapitated.

It took over a decade to replace the buildings.

The memorial that takes place every anniversary is less about survivors and more about the politicians.

Six years ago, President Obama announced his Iran deal.

Now we have US congress critters who say, hey, who cares about 9-11? “Some people did some things.”

Afghanistan has been a clusterf*** for the past decade, with a withdrawal that looks like a retreat. All in all, I think my original instinct at 19 was the right one: Nukes should have been involved. First, ask for bin Laden, then nuke until either the Taliban personally hand him over, or Afghanistan was a sea of glass. Between twenty years of warfare and the disaster over the coming years, “Operation: Sea of Glass” might have killed fewer people in the long run.

Everyone likes to say “never forget.”

I hope this has made some people remember.